The kids are late for school, the house is in chaos, kids are in a bad mood, but you know you’re forgetting something as you rush everyone out the door. What? Breakfast!
Research has found that anyone – kids or adults — who eats breakfast will perform better throughout the day in the classroom, office, board room and on the playground. That’s especially true for kids. In addition to helping provide energy for brain activity and development, a healthy breakfast helps them with:
- Improved concentration
- Enhanced memory
- A longer attention span
- A heightened mood
- Advanced cognitive abilities
Studies have also found that children who eat breakfast are more focused in school and achieve higher grades and standardized test scores. They also display better problem-solving skills, better hand-eye coordination, stronger memory recall, greater fact comprehension and more stable energy levels. Children who eat breakfast are also less likely to exhibit behavioral problems or experience peer conflict. They also have fewer school absences, fewer incidents of tardiness and lower rates of school suspension.
That’s pretty convincing.
But in the real world, kids are kids. And some kids just don’t want to eat a healthy breakfast or any breakfast at all. They are tired and crabby in the morning, and they would rather eat a candy bar than a whole grain muffin.
But don’t give up. Here are some tips to help your picky eaters get into the breakfast routine:
- Be a good role model. Eat breakfast with your child and set a good example by showing that you value eating breakfast. Have a structured morning meal, or at least sit down and have a bite with them in the morning. This sets a routine and an expectation for children that breakfast is important. If you skip breakfast, they will too.
- Start small with a piece of fruit, some cheese cubes, or a cup of low-fat yogurt. These are all good, nutrient-rich choices. They don’t need to start with a lot.
- Make it easy to grab and go. If you find yourself crunched for time in the mornings, it’s ok to prepare breakfast foods at night. These can be easy things such as cut up fruit, cheese, etc., so there’s no rush in the morning. Give them something they can grab and eat on the go.
Some kids just aren’t hungry first thing in the morning. For them, be sure to pack a breakfast that they can eat later, either on the bus or between classes. Fresh fruit, cereal, nuts, or half a peanut butter and banana sandwich are nutritious and easy to eat on the go. A granola bar is another healthy breakfast for kids that’s portable.
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Quick Breakfast Ideas
There is no such thing as the “best” breakfast meal. Nutrition professionals advocate balance and variety. On average, breakfast should contribute about 25 percent of a person’s daily calorie needs. A combination of high-quality carbohydrates, lean protein and, heart-healthy fats is necessary to ensure optimal functioning of the body and brain.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about all the possibilities for your kids’ breakfasts:
- Spread peanut butter onto whole-grain toast and top with mixed berries or sliced bananas or apples. For a real treat, pop it in a panini maker!
- Prepare French toast using whole-grain bread, eggs and nonfat/low-fat milk, then serve with strawberries instead of syrup.
- Mix blueberries into whole-grain cold cereal with nonfat/low-fat milk or soymilk.
- Top a whole-grain toaster waffle with nonfat/low-fat vanilla yogurt and sliced peaches.
- Stir cantaloupe chunks and low-fat granola into nonfat/low-fat cottage cheese.
- Layer sliced fruit with nonfat/low-fat yogurt and whole-grain cold cereal into a breakfast parfait.
- Stuff a whole-grain pita pocket with scrambled eggs/egg whites, reduced-fat shredded cheese, spinach, tomatoes, onion, broccoli and/or peppers.
- Combine whole-grain cereal, dried fruit and nuts or seeds for a grab-and- trail mix.
- Create a breakfast pizza with a toasted whole-grain English muffin, tomato sauce and part-skim mozzarella cheese.
- Dab almond butter onto a whole-grain mini bagel and then sprinkle with raisins.
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About UPMC Harrisburg
UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.