September 19, 2008

A Nutrition Minute: Let's Talk Breakfast

by Sharon Gruber, Nutrition Consultant.

Kids need a safe place to learn with a small teacher-student ratio, lots of outdoor space, access to the latest in technology, and all the support necessary for them to realize their potential. But even under those optimal circumstances, many students might not achieve what they can because of something so simple, so basic: they haven't eaten breakfast.

Eating a healthy breakfast allows us to restock the energy stores that have been depleted overnight and to begin the day with the fuel we need to function well. If we don’t refuel in the morning after an overnight fast, we have to draw fuel from our energy stores until lunchtime. This is particularly hard for a child in school without a break to eat something nutritious when he or she starts feeling an energy crash. Plus, the stress hormones necessary to mobilize the energy reserves and keep the child going might leave the child feeling irritable, tired, and unable to learn or behave well.

Missing breakfast also means that the child is set up for a day of erratic binging and possibly overeating from lunchtime on. Sumo wrestlers know this. They have carefully studied how to gain weight, and they follow a daily regimen of intentionally missing breakfast, knowing it means they’ll overeat later.

Whether children eat breakfast undoubtedly affects their learning, behavior, and physical health. But so does what they eat. A breakfast with protein, whole grains, fruit and/or vegetables best prepares children for the day ahead.

Nutritious breakfast ideas with kid appeal
· Morning pizza. Take a slice of crusty whole grain bread, spread it with ricotta cheese, and add tomatoes.
· Cereal sundae. Make a portable breakfast by combining yogurt and a low-sugar cereal in a to-go container. Add1/4 cup of nuts and/or fresh fruit, like chopped almonds and blueberries.
· Fruit and cheese. Grab an apple, toss a few ounces of cheddar and 1/4 cup of walnuts into a resealable container/bag.
· Cottage cheese with a swirl of apple butter and slice of whole-grain toast
· Egg on the run. Slice an egg and roll it in a whole-grain tortilla with cheese. Try adding a tablespoon of salsa.
· Piece of whole-grain bread with peanut or almond butter, cheese, and apple
· Oatmeal with cinnamon, nuts, and apples. Buy steel-cut oats (healthier than instant or rolled oats) and soak them overnight (about 1 part oats to 4 parts water) so they cook very quickly in the morning.
· Scrambled eggs with garlic, chopped spinach (fresh or frozen), and a piece of whole-grain toast

General tips to make a healthy breakfast a reality
· Finish schoolwork, pack bags, and set out clothes the night before.
· Allow for eating on the run. Better to eat on the run than not to eat breakfast at all.
· If cereal is the only way to go, try a low-sugar cereal.
· Model. You need to eat the food, too.
· Don’t force. It will just be a battle of control and willpower, and the adult will lose.
· If your child insists that she’s not hungry, tell him/her that you’re hungry and would like to share his/her breakfast. But make enough to anticipate this. Usually, the child wants to eat it after sharing some. If the child still will not eat, ask that he/she join you at the table, since you want his/her company, that it is family time, and that you won’t force him/her to eat. After watching everyone else eat, the child typically wants to participate. But do not beg; you are the adult.
· If the child still does not want to eat, think about what he/she ate for dinner. If it was a big dinner or if he/she ate and went straight to bed, perhaps the body is truly not ready for breakfast. Since it is more important to have the big meal at the beginning of the day when the energy is needed, try lightening up on dinner or slightly moving up dinner time so that the kids burn calories playing before bedtime.
· Protein bars typically are glorified candy bars. Even if all natural, they are very high in sugar. And breakfast bars (as opposed to protein bars) typically have only 2 g of protein, which is inadequate to get a child through to lunchtime. Neither option is a sufficient breakfast, but yes, they are better than nothing.

Parts of this blog entry were adapted from a page on that is no longer active.

No comments: