A Healthy Breakfast
First and foremost, start your kids out with a healthy breakfast. For children and teens, a morning meal is especially important. “After eight to 12 hours without a meal or snack, a child’s body needs fuel,” says Althea Zanecosky, a Philadelphia-based dietician and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Breakfast prepares children to meet the challenges of learning.”
Research shows that breakfast skippers often feel tired, irritable or restless in the morning, but those who eat a morning meal have a better attitude toward school and have more energy by late morning.
“Kids who eat breakfast tend to have more strength and endurance, and better concentration and problem-solving ability,” Zanecosky explains.
Studies suggest breakfast not only has a significant effect on learning, but may also help control weight and reduce the risk of heart disease. “Breakfast eaters are less likely to be ravenously hungry for mid-morning snacks or lunch and they tend to eat less fat during the day, too.”
Making Breakfast Fun
No matter what, do not let your kids use the excuse of not being hungry. According to Zanecosky, even eating a small breakfast can help restore needed fuel for the morning.
“Make breakfast fun by planning it with your child. Decide who prepares what and work together to get it done. If your child doesn’t like traditional breakfast foods, don’t worry—breakfast can be any food they like, even a slice of pizza.”
The kinds of foods kids eat for breakfast can make a big difference in energy levels. When a breakfast consists mostly of sugary foods—such as fruit, fruit juice, syrup or sugared cereals—a quick rise in blood sugar occurs, causing a rush of energy. After about an hour, blood sugar and energy decline, bringing on symptoms of hunger.
A balanced breakfast consisting of foods containing carbohydrate, sugar, protein and fat, gives a constant release of energy, delaying symptoms of hunger for several hours.
A good strategy for maintaining a wholesome breakfast regimen is to keep quick-to-fix foods on hand or prepare breakfast the night before. Breakfast cereal, bagels, toaster waffles, yogurt, canned and fresh fruit, juice, milk, cheese and cottage cheese are all good options. Or, pack a breakfast for the young student: a container of yogurt, bagel with peanut butter, or grapes, crackers and cheese.
“Overall, a well-nourished child is a ready-to-learn child,” Zanecosky says. “Food nourishes at every age and stage in a child’s life and proper nutrition is critical for social, emotional and psychological development. Teaching children how to eat healthy will enable them to establish a foundation of good nutrition and healthful lifestyle habits.”
Nutrition and learning go hand-in-hand, and as with proper rest, kids who are nutritionally fit are more likely to have the energy, stamina and self-confidence to be active and effective learners.
The American Dietetic Association recently issued “study tips” to help ensure a successful school year for your child. The guidelines provide not only a useful resource for meeting the nutritional needs of your children, but also for developing meal plans and strategies.
10 Tips for Boosting Your Kids’ Nutrition
· Make Dinner Time Story Time—When it looks like the kids won’t eat, start reading a story at the table. After every page they have to take a bite.
· Treat Them to A Vegetable Feast—For the occasional dinner or lunch, serve a medley of carrots, broccoli, crackers, cheese, grapes and dip. The kids love their vegetables that way, and it can be a great time for the family to watch an e3Movie Pick together.
· Add Apple Sauce to Hot Cereal—If you don’t have time to let oatmeal or cream farina to cool off on a busy morning, try adding a few tablespoons of cold applesauce. It not only cools the cereal but adds flavor.
· Fruit Instead of Veggies—Serve fruit on the dinner table instead of vegetables a couple of days a week. Your kids will love it. No complaints about eating vegetables every night, and they get the same nutrients.
· Hide Vegetables in Spaghetti—For kids with advanced fear of vegetables, grind up steamed veggies and put them in your spaghetti sauce. You can’t taste them, and kids love spaghetti.
· Hide Vegetables in Meatloaf—Try grinding up carrots, spinach and broccoli, and then add them to meatloaf or hamburger. The carrots keep it moist and the kids will never know what they are eating.
· Make Food Fun and Friendly—Kids love food that looks fun. Cut fruit, veggies, crackers and sandwiches into small, appealing shapes. Try arranging foods in smiley faces or animal shapes.
· Silly Supper—Prepare bowls of all kinds of different things—lunchmeat, cheese, fruits and veggies. Let the kids help, use paper plates, and sit on the floor or under a tree outside. It gets the kids eating right, and also creates fun times and memories.
· Fruit Popsicles—Dedicate a “project time” to creating real fruit popsicles for the kids. Nutritious and delicious.
· Choosing Healthy—As your young children begin to learn about patterns, create your own. Alternate every other day between healthy snacks and snacks of their own choice. On “healthy” days, they must choose some kind of fruit or vegetable. If they want they can dip their apple in caramel or their celery in peanut butter. Give them the freedom to choose, and they may begin choosing healthy on their own!