Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It breaks the 8-12hr fast from last night’s meal and kicks the body’s metabolism back into work mode. Research shows that kids who eat a healthy breakfast complete with whole grains, fiber and protein have improved concentration and performance in the classroom. Kids who eat a healthy breakfast are also more likely to participate in physical activities and maintain a healthy weight through life.
Kids who skip out on breakfast are more likely to be irritably and moody and to be mentally distracted by mid-morning as their energy and blood sugar levels crash. This is also true of children who eat a breakfast high in sugar and processed carbohydrates. Eating breakfast starts the body’s metabolism, the process the body uses to convert the fuel in food to energy the body can use, in other words, burning calories. Food with little national value does not burn for long, and leaves these kids in a similar state as those who skip breakfast all together.
Providing a healthy breakfast made of whole grains, clean protein and fiber is not as easy as grabbing pre-packaged muffins and a brightly packaged yogurt product and kissing our kids good bye. A well balanced breakfast requires reading and understanding food labels and potentially, a little extra time in the kitchen.
Many of us grew up checking food labels for calories, fat, protein and carbs. These are good things to check for, but even more important is reading the ingredient list. Many pre-packaged foods are full of chemicals used to pro-long shelf life and add flavor/color, not ideal for growing healthy kids. In addition to noticing ingredients, it is also important to look at information on grams of sugar. Many kid yogurt products for example contain half of the recommended daily allowance of sugar for a healthy kid diet. Kid cereal can be even worse with high sugar, low nutrients/ fiber and low protein levels. (It is recommended that kids have 24g of sugar or less per day, American Heart Association and World Health Organization)
Here are a few quick healthy breakfast options for the whole family:
• Whole grain toast, egg and fresh fruit
• Banana or apple with nut butter on whole grain toast
• Yogurt parfait (plain or vanilla Greek yogurt, fruit of choice, low sugar granola)
• Oatmeal with fruit (fresh or dried), crushed nuts, cinnamon and milk
• Fruit smoothie with whole grain muffin, toast or pancakes
• Whole grain pancakes, waffles and muffins with fresh fruit. (I make mine in large batches and freeze for weekday convenience).
• Whole grain, low sugar cereal with milk and a side of fruit
• Low sugar yogurt with a side of fruit and whole grain baked good
There are many more options then the ones provided above. The most important thing is to fuel your kids each morning with slow burning fuels that give them the energy they need to succeed.