STILLWATER — Mornings during the school year can be a hectic blur for both parents and students trying to get out the door, but that should not be an excuse to skip breakfast.

Whether it is a piece of whole wheat toast and a glass of milk or a more elaborate spread, the morning meal sets the stage for a successful day of learning.

“There’s a strong link between breakfast and how well students perform at school,” said Deana Hildebrand, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service nutrition specialist. “Research has connected breakfast to better memory, test scores and attention span as well as better overall nutrition.”

Figuring out how to slide breakfast into an already jam-packed morning routine can be tricky or overwhelming. But, there are some strategies that can make it less challenging.

For instance, consider getting a head start on breakfast the night before or focus on stocking up on healthy options children can take with them.

Options for make-ahead meals include measuring out a bowl of a favorite cold cereal and pre-cutting fresh fruit.

Meanwhile, nutritionally solid on-the-go breakfast choices range from hard-boiled eggs to homemade muffins to bagels with low-fat cream cheese.

“Don’t be afraid to get creative,” Hildebrand said. “It doesn’t always have to be cereal and low-fat milk. Focus on building a meal that includes protein along with fruits and vegetables.”

Parents also should explore if the school or child care provider offers a breakfast meal.

“The important thing is that families make time for breakfast each morning,” Hildebrand said. “Of course, it’s not realistic to expect a full sit-down meal, but children should be able to eat without feeling pressured to hurry.”

For more information about the importance of eating a healthy breakfast before school, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website at www.healthychildren.org and contact the nearest county Extension office.