A healthy breakfast is a must for kids. Skip it and your kids will be playing nutritional catch-up for the rest of the day, says Carole L. Adler, MA, RD, a dietitian at the food and Drug Administration. (FDA)
When kids skip breakfast, they don’t get what they need to be at their best, says Adler. Growing bodies and developing brains need regular, healthy meals. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, studies show that school children who eat breakfast preform better in the classroom. As with other meals, it’s a good idea for your kids (and you) to eat a healthy balance of fruits and vegetables, proteins, grains and dairy- not just for breakfast but throughout the day.
The following are suggestions to help start your day off right.
1. Anything goes, as long as you maintain a healthy balance. So if your kids want to change from cereal and eggs, think about serving left-overs from last night’s dinner. There’s nothing wrong with tuna fish with cereal on a whole wheat English muffin or a turkey sandwich to start the day.
2. Give kids foods they like. It’s neither necessary nor effective to feed them foods they dislike. Do your kids turn up their noses at vegetables but love pizza? Left over pizza with whole-grain crust and veggies works for breakfast too. Or, make muffins with zucchini and carrots, and spread with peanut butter or almond butter for protein with a glass of low-fat milk.
3. Your kids love sugary cereal — mix a little bit of that cereal with a whole-grain nutrient packed healthier brand of cereal.
Nothing has to be off the table altogether, and sometimes just a taste of something your kids like is enough to keep them happy.
Make healthy trade-offs. Keep in mind that nutritional balance is key; not just for one meal, but for foods eaten throughout the day. Not enough vegetables in the morning meal? Prepare extra carrots, celery, and broccoli sticks with hummus dip as an afternoon snack.
Take growth and activity levels into account. Growing bodies need nourishment. And if your kids are physically active to boot, they need plenty of calories to keep them fueled. Having a breakfast that contains protein, fat and carbohydrate helps children feel full and stay focused until lunch. Protein choices might include eggs, some nuts, a slice of deli meat or cheese, or a container of yogurt.
And please don’t take ”Mom, I don’t have time for breakfast” as an excuse. Make sure your kids grab a piece of fruit on the way out the door, and hand them a bag of nuts-and fruit trail mix, or a whole-wheat tortilla spread with peanut butter or almond butter and a carton of milk. A fruit-filled shake with milk or yogurt takes only a couple of minutes to drink.
Prep the night before. Morning is a busy time for everyone, including you. So take ten minutes to think ahead and prep for breakfast the night before. Chop up fruit to layer in a yogurt parfait or add to cereal. Cut up vegetables for an omelet. Mix up muffin or whole-grain waffle
batter — cover and put in the fridge. Get out a pan or pancakes or a blender for smoothies.
Use the Nutritional Facts label and ingredient statement when you shop. The label makes it easy to determine the amount of nutrients your kids are getting and to compare one product to another. Make sure your children get the nutrient-dense foods that are low in salt and added sugar.
For more information concerning a Healthy Breakfast for Kids, contact Lethia Lee at the Sampson County Extension Center 910-592-7161 or [email protected]
Leitha Lee is the EFNEP Program Assistant for the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program with the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center.