With our busy lifestyles in the United States, it is not surprising that nearly half of families regularly skip breakfast in the morning. They get to sleep late, wake up early to head to work or school and don’t take the time for breakfast in order to start the day out right.

For children, a healthy breakfast is one of the most important components to preparing them for school in the morning. Eating breakfast helps awaken the body and gives the metabolism a boost. Breakfast has been shown to help improve test scores, increase attention spans during school, improve memory and help with overall health and nutrition. Studies have shown that people who regularly eat a nutritious breakfast have overall healthier body weights.

Eating something in the morning before going to school is not enough. It needs to be a nutritious breakfast that ideally includes protein to help prevent hunger until lunch time. Eating sugary cereal or pop tarts are not the best start to the morning, however, if a child is going to eat these, try pairing them with some kind of meat, milk, yogurt or fruits to add some healthy nutrients to the meal.

As parents with busy lifestyles, it can be hard to prepare a breakfast for your child in the morning. Here are some helpful hints to make having breakfast ready easier.

• Consider fixing breakfast in the evening before going to bed. Planning ahead can help you have more nutritious foods available in a hurry. An example would be boiling hard-boiled eggs and pealing them the night before so they are easy to grab and eat in the morning.

• Keep fresh fruit handy at home as it always makes a great addition to breakfast and is easy to grab on the way out the door

• Encourage children to go to bed at a regular time in the evening. School aged children should be getting at least 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Falling asleep too late at night will make getting the full amount of sleep difficult. It is also more likely to make it difficult for children to wake up early enough for breakfast before heading off to school

• Model good breakfast eating behavior to your children. If you routinely make time for breakfast, your children are more likely to as well.

• Check with your child’s school or daycare provider to see if breakfast is an option at these locations. School breakfast programs can help busy families who do not have the time or resources for breakfast at home.

• Keep foods that are easy to grab, such as granola bars, breakfast bars, dried fruit, fresh fruit, or dry cereal in the house. This is especially important for teenagers who are less likely to sit down for breakfast and more like to grab something on the way out the door.

The old saying,” Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” has a lot of truth to it. With these tips, hopefully you can help your child start the day ready to learn.

— Dr. Jessilyn Humble is a pediatrician at Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg.