You’ve heard it before — breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Yet, like so many Americans, breakfast may take last place on yours or your child’s “to-do” list. As you try to shuffle everyone out the door in the mornings, it’s just one more thing “to-do”.
You’ve probably heard this before too (but just in case you haven’t) — kids who eat breakfast in the morning perform better on math, reading and standardized tests. They concentrate better and have fewer behavior problems. Despite the extra few minutes it takes to eat breakfast, kids who eat it are also less likely to be late for school. And to top it all off, kids (and adults) who eat breakfast on a daily basis are more likely to maintain a healthier weight. Needless to say, the pros of eating breakfast definitely outweigh the cons.
MAKING BREAKFAST HAPPEN
So many benefits yet so little time. Here are a few ideas to help you make breakfast happen for your family.
If your family is not accustomed to eating breakfast, it may take a little while to develop this new habit. Keep it simple by starting small – a banana, a slice of whole wheat toast, a small container of yogurt – to make for an easier transition.
Stock Up on Breakfast Foods.
Keep items that are quick to fix, such as whole wheat mini bagels and English muffins, whole grain cereals, yogurt, frozen waffles and fresh or frozen fruit.
Prep the Night Before
This way, you don’t even need to think about it in the morning. Pour cereal in bowls and keep them in the fridge overnight. Add milk and fruit in the morning.
Avoid Up 10 Minutes Earlier.
I know; it seems impossible. Start with five minutes first.
MAKING GOOD CHOICES
You’re willing to give breakfast a try and you want to make good choices for your family. At the same time, there are so many options to choose from and many of them are loaded with added sugar, sodium and fat. In fact, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently published a report indicating that most children’s cereals fail to meet the federal government’s proposed voluntary guidelines for foods nutritious enough to be marketed to children. Some of the worst cereals included, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp, Kellogg’s Apple Jacks and Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch.
COLD CEREAL: WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Some cereals are better than others. As you choose, consider the following:
- Cereals with a short ingredient list (added vitamins and minerals are okay).
- Cereals high in fiber. Choose those with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. More is even better.
- Cereals with few or no added sugars, including honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, corn sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, lactose and malt syrup.
Interestingly, cereals that meet these criteria can usually be found on the top shelves in the cereal aisle. The EWG suggests, Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats, General Mills Cheerios Original, General Mills Kix Original, Post Shredded Wheat, Post Grape-Nuts Flakes and Quaker Oats Oatmeal Squares Cinnamon.
You want your family to eat breakfast but they don’t prefer cold cereal. Consider these quick breakfast options:
- Breakfast smoothie made with 1 banana, 1/2 cup frozen berries, 1 cup soy milk, ¼ cup old-fashioned oatmeal
- Slice of whole wheat toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter, medium banana and 1 cup low fat milk or soy milk
- Hot oatmeal made with ½ cup regular oatmeal (not instant), sliced apples and 1 cup low fat milk or soy milk
- Hard-boiled egg with an English muffin and orange slices
- Whole wheat mini bagel with ½ – 1 cup yogurt and fresh strawberries
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. For a healthy start for your family, choose foods with fiber and protein, include a serving of fresh or frozen fruit, skip the fruit juice, and don’t shy away from “dinner for breakfast”. Above all, be a breakfast role model. If your kids see you eating breakfast, it’s more likely they will eat it too.
Anne Marie Kuchera, our Kids Plus Nutrition Consultant, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Dietitian.