March 31, 2005
Mom was right. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
Many parents think so, too (81 percent), though a third of the children in this country skip the day’s first meal, according to a national consumer survey conducted by Quaker Oatmeal and reviewed by the American Dietetic Association.
"When you think that some children eat dinner at 5 or 6 p.m., they simply don’t have the fuel they need to get themselves moving," says Terri Verason. A registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Arizona Dietetic Association, Verason says breakfast is really "brain food," and research backs this up.
A Minnesota study on breakfast showed that students who ate breakfast had a general increase in math grades and reading scores, reduced nurse visits and improved behavior. Also, children who eat breakfast are more likely to meet their daily nutritional needs, keep their weight down and have appropriate blood cholesterol levels.
"We recommend that children try to eat a breakfast that includes three food groups," she says. "It doesn’t have to be a traditional breakfast, but something along the lines of a protein, dairy and fruit."
While a doughnut or pastry provides sustenance, those foods lack nutritional value. Not only that, but as simple carbohydrates are readily dismantled by the body, a child ends up hungry two hours later.
"Protein slows the digestion of food so you don’t get that crash," says Verason. Protein also provides amino acids from which neurotransmitters, or biochemical messengers, are made. That’s why traditional morning foods of eggs and dairy are sound breakfast choices.
"Breakfast isn’t just important for kids," says Verason. So if you want to set a good example, eat breakfast yourself. Grab-and-go foods that are worth keeping around include cheese sticks, small containers of milk, hardcooked eggs, tortillas, fresh fruit and lunchmeat.
4- and 5-year-olds can be taught how to pour cereal and open yogurt cartons.
6- and 7-year-olds can learn to pour milk without spilling and make a simple sandwich.
8- and 9-year-olds can learn to use a toaster and a knife safely to spread peanut butter and jelly.
Kids 10 years old and older can learn to use the microwave.
10 quick, nutritious breakfasts that involve 3 food groups
• Toasted English muffin, peanut butter, glass of milk
• Cold cereal, banana, milk
• Leftover cheese pizza
• Crackers and cheese, orange wedges
• Yogurt, apple, wheat toast
• Ham and cheese sandwich, chocolate milk
• Macaroni and cheese, apple
• Instant oatmeal, canned peaches, milk
• Baby carrots, mozzarella cheese stick, bagel
• Tomato soup made with milk, crackers
• Make sure kids know where foods are stored.
• Keep breakfast foods on low shelves.
• Store fresh fruit on counter where it is easily seen.
• Store leftovers that kids can eat for breakfast in see-through containers or in containers covered with clear plastic.