We are all cooking more than ever right now and that includes breakfast. Kids who eat breakfast have more focused concentration, cognitive function, perform better in school, and drinking just one glass of water at the start of the day may even improve test scores. 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:
1. 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! Plan ahead for breakfast. Make large portions on the weekends and use breakfast leftovers during the week. Use the crockpot to simmer breakfast oatmeal overnight so it's ready when you get up.
2. 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. Adding nut butter, eggs, cheese, and beans to breakfast are just a few ways to boost your breakfast with protein.
3. 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 of 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.
4. “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. Some 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.
5. 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. Think outside of the cereal box and include fruits and veggies in breakfast. For even more fiber, switch breakfast foods like bread and pancakes to whole grain options.
The good news is if we pay attention to breakfast food choices, we can start to do better overall! Check out what the Dr. Yum Project team is cooking up for breakfast and some tips for using what you have to create a yummy meal to start your day.
Wendy, Cooking Instructor and Preschool Curriculum Liaison: Steel Cut Oatmeal with Apples
Noah, Cooking Instructor and Hannah, Team Member: Roasted Mixed Potatoes
Nimali, aka Dr. Yum: Crepes
Sarah, Registered Dietitian: Quiche
For even more breakfast recipes visit our recipe pages and use the Breakfast Tag.