We all know that eating a nutritious breakfast is crucial for maintaining health and energy in kids and adults alike. Breakfast improves cognitive functioning, leads to healthier food choices throughout the day, and refuels the body. A well-nourished child is ready to learn.
Need more convincing? Children who eat a nutritious breakfast have better overall test scores, they concentrate better, solve problems more easily, have better muscle coordination, and learn healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. Children who eat breakfast are also less likely to be overweight. Wow, right?
However, mornings can be challenging. The weekday flurry of getting kids up and ready for school doesn’t always allow time for a lot of mealtime preparation. But that is what I am here for! By following a few simple rules, you can provide some quick, healthy, and nutritious food to fill those bellies before heading out the door.
- Replace refined grains with whole grains. Whole grain products contain more fibre than foods made with refined flours. Fibre helps to maintain energy levels and will keep your child satisfied until lunch or at least until snack time. Choose breakfast cereals with at least 4 grams of fibre per serving. (Check the label on the side panel. Look for a cereal with at least 4 grams of fibre and less than 6 grams of sugar per serving.) Replace the scones or store bought muffins with a piece of whole grain bread, wraps, or homemade muffins. (Look for bread and wraps with 2-4 grams of fibre per slice.)
- Don’t forget the protein! Include a lean source of protein such as nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, milk, soy milk, Greek yogurt, or nut/seed butters your child’s breakfast meal. Protein, just like fibre, helps with satiety and staying power. It helps stabilize blood sugar and provides important building blocks for your body.
- Include fruits and Vegetables. This will add a boost in vitamins, minerals, fibre, and therefore energy. Starting the day with this focus helps set the trend for the rest of your meals and makes you more likely to meet your daily quota.
Keeping the cabinets and refrigerator stocked with quick and healthy breakfast choices is the key to preventing breakfast burnout. Do your whole family a favor by having a well stocked pantry with ingredients to make quick breakfast-ideas for those mornings when you are running against the clock. Here are some more ideas:
- Nut Buttery Banana Roll-up: Spread almond, peanut, or other nut butter on a whole grain tortilla, top with banana slices and roll up.
- Vegetable & Fruit Smoothie: Smoothies are a great way to include vegetables in your breakfast. Using a blender, mix fresh or frozen fruit with vegetables such as carrots, spinach, or kale. Add milk or yogurt for added protein and calcium, and toss in some ground flax seeds or chia seeds for brain-boosting omega-3 fats.
- Melon, Cereal, & Cottage Cheese: Melon wedges make a great base for a protein-packed scoop of low fat cottage cheese (or yogurt). Top this with crunchy whole grain cereal for a fun and fruity breakfast that is heaping with nutrients
- Seed butter served on whole-grain toast or rolled inside a whole-wheat wrap
- Hard boiled egg, a piece of fruit and whole grain dried cereal
- Apple and cheese slices and whole grain crackers.
Kids in the Kitchen - Breakfast Bar
Getting your kids involved in the breakfast preparation will boost their sense of control and confidence in the kitchen. Let your kids build their own breakfast with a breakfast bar. Similar to a salad bar, a breakfast bar includes a variety of foods to mix and match. Little ones love to create unusual combinations by mixing, stacking and organizing ingredients. Let them be creative and watch the nutritious combinations they come up with. Here are some ideas.
- Whole grain crepes or waffles
- Natural nut or seed butter
- Greek, plain yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Variety of low sugar, dry cereals
- Variety of berries and sliced fruit
- Cooked apples or fruit compote
- Chopped nuts and seeds
- Raisins and dried cranberries
- Milk, almond milk, or soy milk
Recipe: Dressed-up Cooked Cereal
For a great grain breakfast, add flavor and nutrition to cooked cereals (instant or not), such as oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits, brown rice or whole-grain couscous. Cook up a batch and keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. Simply warm up the cereal in the morning and add desired toppings. Here are some ideas to jazz up cooked cereal;
- Use or milk or fortified milk as the cooking liquid.
- For cooked cereal, blend in grated cheese, chopped fruit (apple, peach, banana, kiwifruit), dried fruit (chopped apricots, papaya, dates, raisins) or nuts
- Liven it up with spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cloves.
If eating breakfast at home simply isn't an option for your child, find out if school breakfast is available. Or pack them a healthy breakfast-to-go that they can eat on the bus or when they get to school. You will not only be encouraging your children to eat nutritiously, but fueling their growing bodies and minds for success.
Originally published in print in the Fall 2016 edition of Okanagan Child.