Food For Thought

By Maggie Reed

June 6, 2008 5 min read


Proper breakfast serves a student's body and mind

By Maggie Reed

Copley News Service

The best way to help children get through their day successfully is to get them out the door with healthy breakfasts in their tummies.

With everyone's hectic lifestyles, this can seem like a difficult task. But it's not impossible and nutrition experts say it is a must.

"It's important to get kids to eat before they leave the house. It gives them fuel to get through until lunchtime," says Bethany Thayer, a registered dietitian in Detroit and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

It keeps them focused and their energy levels up, she added.

The Child Development Institute notes that teachers traditionally schedule "heavy" subjects, such as math, during the morning hours so it becomes even more important for children to be at their best during those hours.

Other reasons to send children off fully fueled, according to the American Dietetic Association, include:

- Children who eat a healthy breakfast meet their daily nutritional needs, keep their weight under control, have lower blood cholesterol levels, attend school more frequently and make fewer trips to the nurse's office complaining of stomachaches.

- Students who eat breakfast are more likely than children who skip breakfast to consume foods with adequate levels of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamins such as A, C, B-12 and riboflavin.

- When children skip breakfast, they do not make up for those lost calories at other meals. Youngsters need calories to grow.

This doesn't mean you have to serve homemade waffles or omelets to order every morning. However, having choices helps. Offer options and let children choose.

There should be four major components, Thayer says: protein, whole grain, dairy and fruit/vegetables. "Give the kids a choice in each category and let them mix and match. The key is to sit down with children and find out their likes in each category so they really have a choice," she says.

With nutrition and time in mind, here are some good choices for breakfast on the go:

- Don't forget the blender. Smoothies are an excellent choice. The basic smoothie usually includes milk, fruit and ice. But feel free to add some honey, substitute fruit juice for the milk, throw in some wheat germ ... whatever strikes your fancy if it's healthy.

- Cold cereal. Just top with milk, fruit, maybe some granola or wheat germ and you're ready to go.

- Hot cereal. Instant oatmeal takes only a matter of minutes in the microwave. Or, old-fashioned oatmeal can be cooked in a slow cooker overnight and it's ready to go in the morning. Top with fruit, chopped nuts, wheat germ, raisins, etc.

- Parfaits. Layer yogurt, fruit and granola in glasses for a parfait look. Remember, we also eat with our eyes.

- Eggs. Try an egg sandwich. Just toast a whole-grain English muffin, top with an egg (fried, poached, sliced hard-cooked), low-fat cheese, a slice of lean ham and try to slip in a tomato or other veggie somewhere. For a breakfast burrito, scramble eggs with salsa, low-fat cheese and wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla. To make it more calorie-friendly, make with just the egg whites.

- Waffles. Pop them in the toaster and top with fruit, honey or yogurt.

- Muffins. If you like to bake, keep a batch in the freezer then just put them in the microwave to thaw and warm-up.

- Breakfast bars. Always easy for on-the-go folks who just run out of time. Make sure they are nutritious and try and get some fruit in there. Bags of granola, yogurt-covered or dried fruit and juice boxes are great to keep in the car for those rushed days.

- Pizza. Yes, pizza. Leftover pizza isn't such a bad thing. It's more nutritious than fast food and adding some extra cheese increases the nutritional value. Or, how about some fresh breakfast pizzas. Simply top a whole-wheat English muffin with some salsa and low-fat cheese. Add a bit of toppings, if you like. Place in the microwave or toaster oven until bubbly.

- A buffet. Set up plates with sliced fresh fruits, cheeses and finger foods like veggies, hard-cooked eggs, toast, dried fruit, etc. The more colorful the better and children will appreciate helping themselves.

And remember, if you find you can't prepare a nutritious morning meal for your children, check into breakfasts offered in school or day care.

For more information, call the ADA at 800-877-1600 or visit; for the CDI, call 866-510-6556 or visit

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