Research indicates that children who regularly eat breakfast have better standardized test scores and are less hyperactive than children who skip breakfast. When comparing low glycemic index (GI) breakfasts to high GI (sugary) breakfasts, research also shows that children who eat high GI breakfasts tend to eat more food at lunchtime.
What Makes a Good Breakfast?
An egg, a slice of whole grain toast with nut butter, a piece of fruit and a glass of low-fat milk is one example of a good breakfast. Tofu, lean meat and whole grain cereals are also good choices at breakfast. The protein from the tofu, eggs or meat and the fiber from the whole grains will keep your child satisfied until lunch time.
Try to avoid giving your child sugary breakfast cereals, white-flour pancakes and syrup -- all of which will leave your child hungry and tired half way through the morning. This is tempting because kids love sweet flavors and often hate bitter flavors (like vegetables). If your child tends to get hungry in the middle of the morning, send an apple, whole grain crackers, nuts and cheese snacks rather than sugary cookies or white-flour crackers.
What About Lunch?
Most schools try to provide nutritious lunches for children, but it's expensive and kids don't always want to eat the healthier foods. Many schools offer fast food, greasy pizzas, French fries and other poor-quality foods alongside the usual lunch selections.
Teach your kids the importance of eating nutritious foods at lunchtime. Hopefully with your help they will choose healthier salads and vegetables instead of French fries, and water instead of soda. Another option is to send lunch with your kids. Hearty soups, salads, fruits, and sandwiches with whole grains can all be packed in insulated containers to stay hot or cold.
Don't Forget After-school Snacks
Even with a balanced breakfast and healthy lunch, a light after-school snack is nice to refuel a kid's body before play or study time. A handful of nuts and an apple is perfect, or maybe a snack tray of vegetables and dips. Keep chips, sugary sodas, pastries and candy out of the house. As the Oxford study shows, sugary and high glycemic index foods just make kids hungrier.
Children who eat nutritious foods may continue to make better food and nutrition choices when they grow up, while overweight children tend to continue their eating habits and become overweight adults.
Teach your children about nutrition. Here are some tips to help:
- Look at the food pyramid and ask your kids to pick out some favorite foods from each food group.
- Have them help you plan a meal that includes a healthy serving of protein, a vegetable or two, and a healthy fruit for dessert.
- For young kids, make a chart to keep track of all the fruits and vegetables they eat (we need at least five servings of fruits and veggies every day).
- Snack time can be more fun if you try different recipes and snack ideas together with your kids.
Murphy JM, Wehler CA, Pagano ME, Little M, Kleinman RE, Jellinek MS. "Relationship Between Hunger and Psychosocial Functioning in Low-Income American Children." Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, February, 1998.
Warren JM, Henry CJ, Simonite V. "Low Glycemic Index Breakfasts and Reduced Food Intake in Preadolescent Children." Pediatrics, November 2003.
Steinberger J, Moran A, Hong CP, Jacobs DR, Sinaiko AR. "Adiposity in childhood predicts obesity and insulin resistance in young adulthood." Journal of Pediatrics, April 2001.