How Important is a Dairy-Rich Breakfast for Kids?

  • Article
  • May 27, 2015

For many people, eating something in the morning is often their last thought as they run out the door. This can be the case for children and teens, too. Is breakfast the most important meal of the day for them, or is it a struggle to get them to eat anything? Do they eat nutrient-rich foods, like milk, yogurt or cheese in the morning?

Fortunately, all three of my kids like milk. When they were younger, they ate cereal and milk for breakfast. As they got older, they would drink a glass of milk (white for my daughter, chocolate for my boys) in the morning and grab something to eat later as they left for the day.

A new study among more than 4,000 children and teenagers (2-16 years) in Australia supports how important eating breakfast that includes milk or another dairy food is to help young people meet dairy recommendations. This in turn may help young people meet their recommendations for dairy-related nutrients — such as calcium, potassium and vitamin D – that are often in short supply.

Results showed that children who ate any dairy food (plain or flavored milk, yogurt, cheese, frozen milk products, custards and mixed dishes) in their first meal of the day, consumed an average of 129 percent more total dairy foods than children who ate no dairy foods at their first meal. In addition, even when dairy foods eaten at breakfast were excluded, they ate 29 percent more dairy at later meals.

As in Australia, many children and teens in the U.S. fall short of meeting dairy food group recommendations. Results of the Australian study suggest that including dairy foods in children/teen’s first meal may be a good strategy for helping them meet dairy food recommendations and potentially nutrient recommendations as well. An article making a similar point for U.S. adolescents, noted that those who avoid milk are likely to fall short of the recommendations for calcium and other nutrients.

If we are to take these and other similar findings to heart, it will be important to look for creative ways to help children and teens include dairy foods in their first meal of the day. A good quality breakfast can be as simple as a serving of fruit, cereal, and a glass of milk or cup of yogurt. Plus, children can get a nutrient-rich breakfast at school that includes a serving of dairy. Eating school breakfast may be a good solution for kids who are sleepy, in a hurry, and/or not hungry when they first wake up.

Moving breakfast out of the school cafeteria by serving breakfast in the classroom or from “grab-and-go” carts has been successful in getting more kids to eat breakfast, and start the day with the fuel they need to learn. Last year National Dairy Council worked with experts like chefs, school nutrition directors, recipe developers and others to come up with innovative breakfast ideas kids would love and that can be served at home or at school. Try some of these yourself, and share with your clients who are looking for ways to make breakfast a priority to help fuel their day.