Breakfast has been called the most important meal of the day, and with good reason. While every meal counts toward good nutrition, the facts are on the table: Eating in the morning has positive effects on health and on kids' ability to learn.
What's a nutritious breakfast? A meal consisting of foods from at least two of the five food groups is healthiest, but the truth is that noshing on nearly any food in the morning is better than none, especially when it come to kids.
It's a good idea to get your child into the habit of eating breakfast before he begins kindergarten. That's because youngsters who eat breakfast tend to fare better in school and have a healthier overall diet. Hunger makes it harder to keep your mind focused on learning, no matter what your age. In fact, studies show breakfast skippers are often more irritable and have shorter attention spans. Here's a possible explanation. When you forgo eating in the morning, blood glucose levels drop. Glucose is the fuel cells need to function, so brain cells become particularly sluggish when glucose concentrations are insufficient. Without adequate energy, young minds get fuzzy, hampering concentration and memory.
Without the morning meal, kids are hard-pressed to meet daily nutrient needs, too. A simple, easy-to-fix meal of fortified cereal with eight ounces of milk and six ounces of orange juice provides substantial amounts of a variety of nutrients, particularly B vitamins, vitamins C and D, calcium, folic acid, and iron if the cereal is fortified with it.
Navigate the Morning Rush
With all the promise of the morning meal, why don't more kids eat breakfast? You're probably pressed for time in the morning, and so are your children. Simplify your morning routine with these tips:
- Get up ten minutes earlier.
- Give up morning television and computer games in favor of concentrating on the task at hand: eating breakfast.
- Stock the kitchen with healthy, quick-to-fix breakfast foods, including cereal, waffles, pancakes, milk, juice, cottage cheese, bread, fruit, and peanut butter.
- The night before kindergarten or nursery school, help kids pack their school bags and decide what to wear the next day to reduce the morning chaos.
Your kids may balk at traditional breakfast foods, but that doesn't mean they must go without. Here's how to jazz up the morning meal.
- Split a bagel. Spread each half with peanut butter and sprinkle with raisins. Serve with milk.
- Warm up leftover pizza or serve it cold. Have kids sip juice to go with it.
- Combine a soft pretzel, string cheese, and fresh fruit for breakfast.
- Serve 8 ounces of yogurt, a piece of toast, and juice.
- Mix it up with a hard-boiled egg, small roll, and a piece of fruit.
- Heat a freshly made or frozen pancake, spread with peanut butter, top with sliced banana, and roll up.
- Layer one or two slices of turkey breast and one slice cheese on a tortilla or colorful sandwich wrap. Roll up. Serve with juice or with fruit.
- Concoct a breakfast parfait with layers of fruit yogurt; sliced fresh fruit; and crunchy, iron-fortified cereal. Kids love this in an ice cream cone.
- Swirl applesauce and raisins into warm oatmeal. Serve with milk.
- Combine in a blender until frothy: ½ cup lemon yogurt, ½ cup milk, dash vanilla extract, and 2 ice cubes. Complement with a slice of whole grain toast.
- Scramble an egg, stuff into half a pita pocket, and top with ketchup or mild salsa, if desired. Serve with juice or fruit.
- Puree chunks of peaches, pears, or apples in the blender or food processor. Thin with fruit juice to desired consistency. Use instead of syrup on fat waffles and pancakes. Add milk to make a meal.
- Mix cottage cheese with chopped peaches, pears, or apples. Spread on whole wheat crackers or toast.
More on: Feeding and Nutrition
Copyright © 2002 by Elizabeth M. Ward. Excerpted from Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.
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