By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Anecdotally, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But the old saying holds some merit, especially to children and teens headed back to school.
“I have always encouraged my kids at home and in practice to eat a healthful breakfast for a variety of reasons,” said Juliann Mellen, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Upstate Medical University. “It is a nice way to start off the day and creates an opportunity for communication before the day gets started. There is quite a bit of research that says eating breakfast helps with memory, concentration and productivity, which supports doing better at school.
What children eat is just as important, since a breakfast of simple carbohydrates such as a white flour bagel, sugary breakfast cereal, cereal bar, toaster pastry or white toast won’t stick with them.
“Eating a healthful breakfast can help with weight management and weight loss,” Mellen said. “If you skip breakfast you may overeat later on in the day. Eating breakfast can help regulate blood sugar making you feel better, healthier and less grumpy.”
She recommends that parents get their children involved in menu planning and food preparation so that they feel more enthusiastic about eating breakfast.
“Make it fun and be creative in presentation such as cookie cutters to cut toast, use dips such as vanilla with fruit or hummus or peanut butter with vegetables,” Mellen said.
“Healthy breakfast should include a whole grain carbohydrate, preferably with fiber, protein rich food, a fruit or vegetable and some healthful fat,” Mellen said.
She added that carbohydrates provide energy, protein fosters a feeling of satiety while stabilizing blood sugar and supporting muscle growth and fat provides energy and aids in absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
“Hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, cheese sticks, trail mix fruit, nut butters are all good things to keep on hand,” Mellen added.
Mixing and matching these foods can provide something new for children who easily become bored with breakfast.
If you lack time to prepare much on busy school mornings, you have options. Laurel Sterling, registered dietitian, nutritionist and educator for Carlson Laboratories, said that a breakfast rich in fiber, protein, good fats and iron “start the day off great for kids which support healthy moods, focus, learning, and testing.”
To do so on a time crunch, she suggested:
• Greek yogurt with berries
• chia pudding with nuts and berries
• smoothie with almond butter, oats, Greek yogurt, fruits and greens
• steel cut oats, with fruit and walnuts
• egg muffin (see sidebar)
• homemade breakfast bars with nuts, seeds, oats, etc
Try preparing food in advance, like baking egg muffins to supply the entire week. Or check your slow cooker’s recipe booklet or online for overnight hot cereal options.
Egg Muffins – Serves 12
1 dozen eggs
Beat eggs and add salt and pepper to preference. Pour into a well-greased, 12-muffin standard sized tin. Add minced raw vegetables like red and green peppers, onions, mushrooms and spinach and shredded cheese. Bake 15 to 18 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. These may be stored for a few days in the refrigerator and reheated in the microwave for 20 seconds to serve.