Breakfast is important. Make it fun!
By Bev Bennett
You may get through the morning on adrenaline and a double-shot latté, but that's not the morning fuel you want for your children. You've probably read about studies suggesting that children who eat breakfast do better academically and have fewer behavior struggles in school.
"Kids definitely need to eat breakfast," says Carrie Ek, a registered dietitian at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge and mother of three.
"Skipping breakfast is a big problem. A lot of schools give mid-morning snacks because children skip breakfast. It helps their attention [span]," says Ek.
Yet this is the meal that often falls through the cracks as you face the other morning challenges, from matching socks to finding emergency after-school care.
But between the idealized home-made pancakes and syrup of the 1950's and today's sugary grab-and-go energy bars, there are plenty of options for a nourishing breakfast that fits into your tight schedule.
Ideally, the first meal of the day should provide almost one-third of the nutrients your child needs until bedtime. Include protein, carbohydrate and fruit, says Jackie Berning, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Ek says scrambled eggs, cheese, yogurt, yogurt drinks and peanut butter are her children's favorite protein foods.
Cereal is the obvious choice for a carbohydrate. Children will benefit from a brand that has 10 grams or less of sugar and 2 or more grams of dietary fiber per serving, Ek says. Fiber ensures your child doesn't feel hungry as soon. Instant oatmeal or a cold oat or whole-wheat cereal would be a good option.
Your children may also enjoy toasted frozen waffles with puréed fruit or a light syrup or a toasted English muffin. If you're concerned because your child is overweight, Ek recommends English muffins instead of bagels. The oversized bagels you buy in most outlets are the equivalent of three or four slices of bread.
It's hard for your children to get the recommended two to four servings of fruit a day if you don't serve fruit for breakfast. You can prepare something as simple as banana slices over a bowl of oatmeal or fresh blueberries or sliced strawberries in yogurt. Fruit juice is fine, but Ek recommends limiting it to a four- to eight-ounce serving.
"I'd encourage my children to drink milk before juice," she says, citing the protein content of milk.
She also prefers solid fruit to juice because it's more filling.
If time is the obstacle, set the table the night before with everyone's cereal and bowls. And when you're really in a rush, pack a breakfast sandwich, such as peanut butter and apple slices that your child can eat on the way to school.
Dreaded though the idea is, you could also wake up earlier to fit breakfast into your routine.
"You have to take the 10 or 15 minutes to eat a decent breakfast. If you sit down to breakfast, your children are more likely to do so. And it's a good idea. In some families breakfast is the only meal people have together to connect," Ek says.
Fruit and yogurt breakfast parfait Here is a delicious breakfast parfait that is wholesome and quick to fix. If you prefer, layer the yogurt and fruit the night before and refrigerate. Add the cereal and nuts just before serving.
1 cup fresh blueberries or sliced strawberries 2 cups low-fat blueberry or strawberry low-fat yogurt ½ cup high-fiber breakfast cereal (see note) ¼ cup sliced almonds, optional
Spoon ¼ cup of berries into each of 2 tall glasses. Top with ½ cup yogurt. Repeat the layers ending with yogurt.
Top each serving with ¼ cup high-fiber cereal and 2 tablespoons sliced almonds. Serves 2.
Note: Grape Nuts, Kashi Go Lean or crumbled Frosted Mini-Wheats are good in this dish. Although the wheat cereal contains 12 grams of sugar per serving, it's also high in dietary fiber and provides some protein. Vary the fruit and yogurt according to the season and your child's preferences.Bev Bennett is the mother of two and the author of "30 Minute Meals for Dummies" (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003).