A Pediatrician’s Advice About Breakfast
We caught up with Bonnie Feola, MD, a local pediatrician who shares her Top Tips on Breakfast Nutrition for Kids:
In the morning children’s tummies are empty and will need energy for the day. Breakfast provides the fuel they need to keep their mind and body sharp, focused and alert. A child’s brain “runs faster” than an adult’s brain because they are learning, moving and growing every day. Although breakfast is the most frequently skipped meal – it shouldn’t be! Breakfast is very important for growing children.
Studies suggest that breakfast eaters tend to have better concentration, more focused behavior, improved muscle coordination, increased school attendance and higher overall test scores. Yay!
And studies show children who eat breakfast are generally in better health overall.
My breakfast suggestions for your child’s start of the day:
- Offer fresh “real” foods and limit “processed” items. Here are some ideas:
- Scrambled eggs with sliced banana, apple or pear on the side.
- Whole grain toast (or tortilla) topped with slice of melted cheese, smear of nut butter or quick microwaved egg with salsa.
- Plain oatmeal topped with dash of cinnamon, spoonful of honey or brown sugar and drizzled with milk or half&half.
- Whole grain waffle with light spread of fruit jam, nut or apple butter. Or drizzled (not drowned) with real maple syrup or honey.
- Choose from the variety of foods in the five food groups now and throughout the day: vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat dairy, and quality protein sources, including lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs.
- Focus on foods that are “nutrient-dense” and less on those with empty calories. Nutrient dense foods have more nutritional value and contain fiber.
- Present appropriate portion sizes.
- Give breakfast a fun twist: Encourage a variety of new food “experiences” by getting creative with morning choices. (Try a banana and handful of nuts, or a rice cake topped with peanut butter or spreadable cheese). Chop Chop Magazine has some great ideas!
Some kids are just not hungry in the morning or it is hard to get sleepy heads up and out the door in a rush. When it is one of these tough mornings, make choices.
- Take some to go: Consider offering a glass of milk, yogurt or another protein/calcium filled beverage now with a whole grain granola bar and piece of fruit while heading out the door.
- Give them a choice: Let your child choose to have a favorite less nutritious breakfast choice – and restrict any choice for a “treat” or sweetened beverage later in the day.
I call it “tough love”. Kids actually look to parents for guidance. They’ll complain but they are just letting their frustrations be heard. They learn quickly that good food is a good choice.
Don’t be surprised when they start asking, “so, what’s for dinner?” when they say goodbye to you in the morning. They are looking forward to eating something healthy and yummy with you later. Congratulations!
Starting the day as often as possible with healthy nutritious foods is a great way to get up and get going. I recommend that the healthiest diet for children is the one that is balanced, based on a variety of nutrient-rich foods in the right amounts – Good old-fashioned eating.
Resources & Posts you Might Like:
- On the Go Egg Pita w/ Yogurt Salsa – Cookin’ Canuck
- Banana Granola – Two Peas and Their Pod
- National Dairy Council Make them at Home School Breakfast Recipes
Dr. Bonnie is a board certified pediatrician with over 21 years of experience. She graduated from Brown University and attended Baylor College of Medicine. She has worked in pediatric clinics all over the country and is currently the Medical Director and CEO of Blazing Pediatric Consulting LLC. She is the mother of three and enjoys spending time cooking, gardening, tending her small backyard flock of hens and generally being outdoors.