Starting the day with a healthy breakfast is just as important for children as it is for adults. The first meal of the day sets the stage for the rest of the day and helps children form good lifetime eating habits. Skipping breakfast, or eating the wrong kinds of foods, sets children up for hyperactivity, poor brain function and bad moods. Giving children a quality breakfast is one of the healthiest things you can do and will set them up for a good day.
The typical breakfast of cereal and milk is high in carbohydrates, which can raise insulin levels as well as serotonin, setting children up for a mid-day crash, decreased concentration and low energy. Instead, make it a point to serve protein with breakfast, which will keep their blood sugar levels steady and allow optimal cognitive function throughout the day. Focused, steady energy allows children to engage in learning and concentrate, rather than having unsteady energy spikes and lows.
If your child is a picky eater or hesitant to change their breakfast habits, start negotiating. Instead of taking away their favorite breakfast cereal let them have it at another time of day and focus on including protein into the first meal of the day. A healthy breakfast tends to lead to healthier choices throughout the day. Making a high quality breakfast doesn’t have to be time consuming and many options can even be made in advance. Here are some simple ways to start creating healthy breakfast habits.
This breakfast staple has six grams of protein and is versatile enough to make a different way every day of the week. Hard-boiled eggs are a good choice to make in advance as well as egg-based casseroles that you can fill with meats and vegetables to pack in even more nutrition.
2. Hot cereals
While hot cereals such as oatmeal are high in carbohydrates, the right additions can boost their protein count significantly. Including just half a cup of Greek yogurt can add as much as ten grams of protein. Nuts, seeds and high quality protein powders can also turn this beloved breakfast into a high protein staple.
These popular drinks are a great way to squeeze a lot of nutrition into a child’s diet. Using yogurt or coconut kefir as a base is an easy way to add probiotics and protein and sweet-tasting fruits can mask the taste of vegetables such as spinach. Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and almond butter are other healthy smoothie additions that can increase the protein content of your child’s meal.
4. Yogurt parfaits
Mixing your child’s favorite fruits with protein rich Greek yogurt is a smart way to start the day. If you find yourself having trouble eliminating breakfast cereal, you can begin by letting them add a little cereal, or a high quality granola, to a yogurt parfait.
5. Seed and nut butters
For children who enjoy toast in the mornings adding a nut or seed butter can be an easy compromise. These spreads are rich in heart healthy fats and proteins that can prevent the insulin spike caused by high carbohydrate bread. Resist the urge to add high sugar jams and instead use spices such as cinnamon or fresh strawberries if you want an extra topping.
6. Fruit and nuts
This is the easiest breakfast to make and works wonderfully if you’re running short on time. An apple and a quarter cup of walnuts is the perfect choice. Although the overall fat content of walnuts is high they contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and also offer a significant amount of omega-3 fats, which are a great source of nutrition for a child’s growing brain.
Initially it might be difficult to dispel the myth that breakfast needs to be sweet and sugary but it is well worth the effort. Frequent family meals where children see their parents making healthy food choices can have a significant influence on their eating habits, so sit down for a family breakfast as often as you can.