The research shows that we should all probably care a little more about breakfast. Kids who eat breakfast have better concentration, cognitive function and do better in school (just drinking one glass of water may even improve test scores!) Despite what many of my teen patients think, skipping breakfast may also lead to excess weight gain. However, many of the typical breakfast food choices are not the most nutritionally sound.
Here are some of the pitfalls I have noticed over the years in talking to my patients and their families about breakfast:
- NOT ENOUGH TIME: Families are busy, and we often don’t give ourselves enough time in the morning to make a nutritious breakfast. Slow down, and realize those moments you take feeding kids a healthy breakfast can lead to a more alert, and better performing child!
- NOT ENOUGH PROTEIN: Traditional breakfast is high in refined carbohydrates. This type of breakfast may cause a spike in insulin, which leaves kids hungry well before lunchtime (think, pancakes and syrup and the “food coma” soon after!) Adding some protein provides a much slower release of energy, which may help kids to concentrate all morning.
- TOO MUCH SUGAR: American kids on average are getting 3-4 times more added sugar than what is recommended by experts like the American Heart Association. Traditional breakfast food like flavored yogurt, cereal, and breakfast bars may provide a whole day’s worth off added sugar before kids even go to school (just one Pop-tart has 17 grams of sugar!) Be mindful of added sugar by avoiding sugary drinks, flavored yogurts and processed breakfast foods. Read labels(4 grams of sugar equals one teaspoon). Breakfast cereals for example, should have no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
- “NOT HUNGRY”: Many kids are so busy in the morning and a bit dehydrated after sleeping all night. This may leave them with little appetite for breakfast. A little physical activity and hydration may increase the appetite in the morning. Provide “drinkable” options like breakfast fruit smoothies for kids who don’t want to eat.
- NOT ENOUGH FIBER: Most kids in the US are not meeting the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, and most breakfast convenience foods skip fruits and veggies all together. They may also use refined grains instead of whole grains, leaving kids with little to no fiber to start their day. Include fruits and veggies in breakfast, and switch breakfast foods like bread and pancakes to whole grain options.
The good news is if we pay attention to breakfast food choices, these issues can be easily avoided! Here are a few breakfast ideas (recipes found on doctoryum.com) which can overcome many of the pitfalls mentioned above.
Also, check out our whole wheat pancake recipe. Make them into a “pancake sandwich” with nutbutter and smashed fruit for a well-balanced breakfast. A homemade granola bar made with fruit and nuts and a eaten with glass of milk can be another great “grab and go” breakfast idea. Give your eggs a veggie boost with our “Cheesy Green Eggs.” Just remember, DON’T SKIMP ON BREAKFAST! It’s the most important meal of the day!!