Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be quick and easy to prepare. With a little pre-planning and input from your kids, you can stock the kitchen with nutritious, convenient choices that will keep them going until lunchtime.
Why is eating breakfast so important?
“Kids who eat breakfast are better learners. A healthy breakfast increases their attention and keeps them focused in the classroom,” said Kate Lorenz, MS, RD/LD, a registered dietitian at the Akron Children’s Hospital Beeghly campus in Boardman.
A healthy breakfast also jumpstarts our metabolism, limits the urge to snack and is a key factor in reducing a number of health problems associated with poor diet.
To keep it simple, Lorenz recommends pairing two different food types – a protein to keep kids satisfied until lunch and a carbohydrate to give them energy.
“If kids eat sugary cereals, doughnuts or toaster pastries, they’ll experience a ‘sugar crash’ as their energy levels fall,” said Lorenz.
Protein sources can be a low-fat dairy product or lean meat, but nuts or peanut butter are also good options. Carbohydrates should be a fruit, vegetable, or bread or cereal made from 100 percent whole grain. Whatever choices you offer, stick with natural foods that are minimally processed and low in sugar and fat.
Lorenz offers these 10 ways to make sure your child’s day starts with a healthy breakfast:
- Create sample menus that pair a protein with a carbohydrate and post them by the fridge or pantry. Examples include low-fat milk or yogurt with a whole-grain bagel, or low-fat cottage cheese or string cheese with dried or fresh fruit.
- Involve your child in the menu planning and shopping to make sure you’re offering choices he will eat.
- In addition to easy-to-prepare items, keep a supply of healthy grab-and-go choices, such as low-fat granola bars or trail mix for especially hectic mornings.
- Save time by planning breakfast the night before. Have your child make her selections, and when possible, set them on the counter or next to her book bag so they are ready to go.
- Think beyond traditional breakfast items, especially if your child would rather have a turkey sandwich than a scrambled egg and toast. Leftovers from dinner the night before can also be a great option.
- For kids who don’t feel like eating in the morning, offer a glass of milk mixed with an instant breakfast drink or a fruit smoothie.
- When choosing cereals, look for those that are 100 percent whole grain and lightly sweetened or low-sugar – no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Use fresh fruit such as bananas, blueberries or strawberries to provide a boost of sweetness (and added nutrients) to low-sugar cereals.
- Limit fruit juice to no more than two 4 to 6 ounce servings per day for kids age 7 and up. (Kids 6 and under should have no more than 4 to 6 ounces daily). Buy only 100 percent fruit juice.
- For kids who are lactose-intolerant, substitute Lactaid or soy milk for cow’s milk.
- Set a good example by eating breakfast with your kids. Eating breakfast is just as important for adults and can help you maintain a healthy weight and overall good health.