Did you know that September is Better Breakfast Month? Breakfast is an important meal that can help sustain energy throughout the day and even aid in weight management. Eating a good breakfast is especially important for children – growing requires a lot of nutrients! Studies have shown that children who eat a healthy AM meal tend to score better on tests and are absent less frequently than their peers who do not eat breakfast. Eating a nutrient dense meal in the morning does not have to be time consuming – look for foods that are high in fiber – they will help keep you feeling fuller, longer. Choose a fortified whole grain breakfast cereal for a bowl of energy in the morning and complete the meal with a serving of fruit such as a handful of blueberries or a banana.
Benefits of eating a balanced breakfast include:
- Improved focus and concentration.Eating a breakfast packed with vital nutrients can give your brain the energy it needs to remain alert and process new information. This can be especially important for the classroom – breakfast helps children absorb information they’re learning and can improve short-term memory.
- Regulation of weight and metabolism.For those who are trying to lose or maintain weight, eating breakfast can kick start the body’s metabolism and set the tone for the rest of the day. A healthy meal in the morning can help stave off hunger pangs and lead to better decision making for other meals later in the day.
- A healthier diet overall. Research has shown that people who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat throughout the course of the day and consume a wider variety of essential vitamins and minerals.
For busy families, incorporating a healthy, balanced breakfast can require some planning, but establishing healthy habits around mealtime can make eating breakfast a breeze. During planning and preparation of breakfast, it is important to consider the following tips:
- Aim for a fiber-dense breakfast. Many Americans are lacking fiber in their diet – dietary fiber can help you feel satiated for longer. It is also responsible for good bowel health, since fiber is unable to be digested by your body, it travels throughout the digestive tract and can be used to prevent or alleviate constipation. Dietary guidelines suggest consuming at least 5 grams of fiber at your first meal of the day.
- Incorporate lean protein.Similar to fiber, protein can leave you feeling full while providing a steady release of energy throughout the day. Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids – essential amino acids are those that our bodies cannot create and must be obtained through our diet. Adding protein (from either plant of animal sources) to breakfast can give your body a much needed boost throughout the day.
- Steer clear of high fats and sugars!With busy schedules and deadlines, it can be tempting to grab the most convenient breakfast option available, but those are often the most nutritionally empty foods. Popular breakfast pastries are filled with artificial dyes and sweeteners and can spike blood sugar levels leaving you and your child feeling hungry sooner. Children and adults need a consistent source of energy for optimal health and development.
Try some of the following recipes for sustainable energy to power your mornings:
Confetti Oatmeal (recipe from CUESA’s Foodwise Kids program)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
This is a kid friendly recipe that the whole family can prepare together!
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup old-fashioned oats
- ½ cup dried fruit of different colors (peaches, plums, grapes, cherries, cranberries…)
- Maple syrup of honey for sweetening (optional)
- Cinnamon (optional)
- Small saucepan
- Mixing spoon
- Measuring cups
- Cutting board
- Wash your hands! Food safety is very important.
- Pour the water into the saucepan and bring it to a boil on the stove. Add the oatmeal and stir. Once it comes to a boil again, turn the heat down to low and allow it to simmer for 7-10 minutes, until fully-cooked.
- While the oatmeal is simmering, chop the fruit into small bits, about ¼ inch square. Dried fruit may be harder to cut than fresh fruit, so you may need help from an adult. Helpful hints: A clean pair of scissors can work well for this!
- When the oatmeal is done, remove it from the stove and pour it into your bowl. Sprinkle dried fruit bits on top and mix. Allow it to cool enough to taste. If needed, add honey or maple syrup and a pinch or two of cinnamon, if you like. Stir again to blend everything together.
- Enjoy your oatmeal! Any leftover fruit can be packed for an afternoon snack.