Good morning, parents. It's time for breakfast, the most challenging meal of the day. I know it's hard. As the clock ticks, you are trying to find school socks and toast bread at the same time. You are busy fixing your child's hair just as the milk starts to boil over. To top it all, the lunch box is waiting to be packed. If this sounds like a typical morning, take a deep breath. And relax. With a little bit of planning, breakfast can be smooth and hassle-free. And your child can enjoy a hearty, healthy breakfast before heading off to school.

It is extremely important to make sure your child does not miss out on breakfast. This is because breakfast is the first meal of the day, after a long gap of 10 to 12 hours. A satisfying breakfast helps your child to be active and energetic through the morning. If breakfast is not adequate, there is a dip in glucose levels in the body and your child will be lethargic and listless, with a short attention span in school. Research shows that children who eat a good breakfast focus better in school as compared to children who don't eat a hearty breakfast in the mornings.

Buy a variety of whole grain cereals that are low in sugar.

Make cottage cheese sandwiches, scrambled egg burritos, chicken roll-ups and other finger foods that kids can eat quickly.

Try to get your kids to eat breakfast sitting down instead of on the go.

Did you know?

Breakfast-skippers are also more likely to face the problem of obesity. This is because your child will feel more hungry as day progresses and end up eating more in the latter part of the day.

How do you make sure your child does not leave home on an empty stomach?

Make adjustments to suit your child. If your kid likes eggs, keep eggs boiled and ready from the night before. Or whip up a wholesome vegetable omelette.

Some children are very happy with an addition of honey or chocolate to milk, breaking the monotony of drinking milk every day. To avoid getting your child hooked on chocolate, you could just sprinkle chocolate powder over smoothies or plain milk.

Include fibre

There's nothing like a filling, fibre-rich breakfast to jump start your child's day. A high-fibre breakfast goes a long way in sustaining your child all the way till the 11 a.m. break in school. Breakfast offers lots of fibre-rich choices. Your child can consume whole-grain toast, fresh fruit or cereals like oats or muesli.

To give your child the maximum advantage from fibre, here's what you can do

Offer whole fruits rather than juice. Most of the fibre in fruit is found in the skin, seeds and pulp.

Use a variety of cereals — bran, oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, muesli, cornflakes, ragi, jowar, brown rice and barley.

Add vegetables to dishes such as poha or upma. Over-cooking reduces the fibre content of vegetables, so steam or cook the veggies only until tender, but firm to bite.

Add nuts, seeds, sprouts in your child's cereal.

Fact-O-Meter

When your child consumes a good breakfast, the body stores glucose in the liver as glycogen. The liver releases this glucose as bursts of energy throughout the day. If your child skips breakfast, the body's energy will dissipate in no time, because glycogen is in short supply.

What can you, as a parent, do to help your child start right? If you do not eat a proper breakfast yourself, now's the time to start! Because your child will pick up the breakfast habit from you and follow your lead. Yes, it means preparing a wholesome breakfast, sitting down at the dining table, and consuming it in an unhurried manner. With your hectic morning schedule, this may not be easy. But for the health for your family, it is essential.

Keep it simple

Breakfast does not have to be an elaborate affair. Keep it as simple, as basic as possible. Plan and prepare in advance, preferably the previous night. If you plan a vegetable upma, for example, keep the semolina (rava) cleaned and roasted, ready to cook. Have some diced vegetables ready-frozen, so you can just sauté them in oil and get started. Grind the chutney and store in a container in the fridge.

If your family prefers toast, use bread options such as whole wheat, multigrain, rye, even breads with seeds, nuts and dry fruit. Make sure the butter is taken out of the fridge, so it's not too hard. But, do not serve sugary breakfast cereals and doughnuts in the morning.

Imaginative toppings on toast too will work wonders — honey, home made fruit jams or chutneys, cottage cheese, kidney beans (rajma) in tomato sauce, peanut butter, scrambled eggs, a mayonnaise or yogurt spread with chopped vegetables. Be creative!