Going beyond sugar for breakfast
By Beth Walton
Gannett News Service
By Beth Walton
While parents can't control what their children are eating at school, they can control what they eat before school. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for both the brain and body.
"Think outside the box," says Marilyn Tanner, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and a registered dietitian. "Even a piece of frozen pizza in the morning can be OK. Just get breakfast in."
More kids are preparing their own for breakfast these days as more households are run by two working parents, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian. Parents in a hurry should go with a portable breakfast, she says. "Instead of cereal and milk, try cereal and yogurt. It can be put in a Ziploc bag. They can literally grab it on the way out the door and have it on the school bus," says Taub-Dix, a spokeswoman for the ADA.
Gloria Tri has been a teacher for 33 years. She always can tell when a child hasn't eaten.
"The kids who don't eat breakfast tend to get more lethargic — they have more problems concentrating," says Tri.
Psychologically, when we are fed healthy foods with nutrients, we feel better, Tanner said. We don't have that jittery feeling you can get from too much sugar or caffeine. Studies show students who had breakfast in the morning will do better in test-taking situations because they can focus on their school work, not on their grumbling tummies, she says.
Carbohydrates and protein are important for young children because they don't often get the chance to snack in the afternoon, says Tanner. Carbohydrates, which covert to glucose to power the brain while protein powers the body, give children the endurance to make it to lunchtime.
Quick, simple reliance on morning pastries such as doughnuts and toaster strudels high in carbohydrates, but low in protein and nutrients, aren't going to give children enough energy to make it through the day. "Those things make your mouth happy, but do nothing for the gut," says Tanner. "You end up starved with no vitamins and minerals."
A lot of kids like sugar-filled cereals, Tanner says, adding that cereal is a good breakfast food because it is a vessel to get calcium in the body. Eating something is better than eating nothing, says Tanner, who recommends parents mix sugary breakfast foods with healthy ones. Doing so is a good way to get the necessary nutrients such as fiber and whole grain in the child's stomach. Adding fruit toppings to cereals is another way to get extra nutrients while appeasing the child's sweet tooth.
The best way to get your child to eat healthy is to eat healthy yourself, says Tanner. Simple things like having a fruit and vegetable bowl on the table will encourage healthy eating and can help prevent future health problems such as adult diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity and cavities.