Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Breakfast and your child's brain

How many times have you heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Let me remind you of why it is important to have a well balanced breakfast. Studies have shown that breakfast eaters have a better overall diet, less trouble concentrating, better memory, higher grades, better attendance and punctuality, fewer behavior problems, less likely to be depressed, anxious, fidgety, or irritable, think faster and more clearly, concentrate better, suffer less fatigue, and are less likely to end up in the nurse's office complaining of tummy aches and dizziness.

So breakfast sounds like a good idea, right? So why do I frequently see parents and caregivers running out of their apartment and grabbing a bagel, donut or pastry from the local deli or bakery for their child. Then the children eat the food while they walk or stuff it into their backpack where it probably stays until lunchtime. And by lunchtime, they are running on empty. Breakfast at home is the perfect time to make sure that your child gets a well balanced meal to start the day.

If your excuse is: “We get up too late” or “We are rushing each morning”, my response is: Wake up 15-30 minutes earlier so that you have time to prepare and eat a healthy breakfast. Make sure your children's school papers and clothes are organized the night before. Breakfast does not need to be a big production. See the breakfast suggestions listed below.

If your excuse is “My child is not hungry in the morning”, my response is: Close the kitchen after 8:00pm. No late-night snacks. It is not unusually for someone not to be hungry when they immediately wake-up. Have your child get dressed before breakfast. If you regularly have breakfast before school, eating early becomes an expected routine.

What is a healthy breakfast?
Breakfast should provide one-fourth to one-third of the day's energy and nutrient needs. A balanced breakfast should provide some protein, a little fat and plenty of carbohydrates. It should also include important nutrients that kids often miss, such as fiber, vitamin C, folate, iron and calcium.

Examples of an ideal breakfast all begin with a glass of low-fat or non-fat milk, and a piece of fruit or a glass of 100% juice. Then add a carbohydrate and protein such as:
· whole-grain cereal with non-fat or low-fat milk
· whole-wheat toast with peanut butter
· a hard-cooked egg and a whole-wheat bagel
· grilled cheese on whole-wheat bread
· oatmeal made with low-fat or non-fat milk
· combine non-fat or low-fat yogurt with a whole grain cereal or granola
· vegetable omelet and whole wheat bread

Eating breakfast needs to be as much of a priority for children as doing their homework.

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