Kids are going back to school, and that means getting them up earlier and trying to get them to eat breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Research has shown that children who regularly eat breakfast have better test scores, better behavior and are less hyperactive than children who skip breakfast.
Here are tips and ideas for easy and healthy breakfasts:
Shake It Up! Studies show that children are not drinking enough milk to meet their needs for calcium and Vitamin D which are important for growth and development. Breakfast drinks are a great choice and are easy to make. Just open a packet and pour eight ounces of 1% milk into a shaker. Drinking a meal may be even faster than sitting down to a traditional one!
Make-Ahead Parfaits. Keep pre-prepared parfaits refrigerated and hand them to your children, as they’re running out the door. All you need is an eight-ounce plastic container with a lid, your child’s favorite yogurt, whole grain cereal, and a handful of berries.
Mini Sandwich On the Go. Send your child off with a cheese sandwich on a whole-wheat mini bagel. After all, kids love anything “mini!” Just wrap it in a napkin and aluminum foil to hold it together.
Some additional delicious, nutritious and super-fast breakfast ideas:
* Hard boiled eggs
* Good old-fashioned cold cereal, especially whole grain with at least three grams of fiber per serving.
* A cheese quesadilla for a healthy meal that breaks up the monotony of breakfast
Eating breakfast is a habit that must be formed at a young age. Keep three things in mind:
1. Try getting your child up 15 minutes earlier to encourage breakfast.
2. Keep it simple.
3. A portable breakfast, such as a fruit smoothie, is a healthy start to the day. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than nothing at all.
The kids are back to school and that means packing their lunch boxes. Here are some tips to help children eat healthier during the school day.
1. Transform healthy foods into tasty foods: Sure we want them to eat their banana, but if we add a little peanut butter and a whole-wheat tortilla it might go down a little easier. Peanut Butter & Banana Pinwheels not only taste great but are a complete meal that includes protein, fruit and whole grains. These are fast and easy to prepare. Simply spread peanut butter inside a whole-wheat tortilla, place a banana in center, roll up and slice into pinwheels.
2. A cookie-cutter sandwich: Whole grains are important because of their fiber and antioxidant content. If your child is not quite ready to take the leap toward brown, whole grain breads, you can try whole grain white, or you can mix it up by using one slice whole wheat and one slice white. Simple tip: Invest in cookie cutters to transform a typical sandwich into fun shapes and puzzles. These are always a hit with smaller children.
3. Dip or dunk? Kids love to dip their food because it adds excitement to regular items like apples or grapes. A really cool recipe that the kids will love is fruit and cheese kabobs. All you need are small wooden skewers and large chunks of fruit, like grapes, pineapple, or strawberries, and cubes of cheese. These are easy enough for young children to prepare and are perfect to prepare ahead of time so they’re ready to go when you’re packing lunches in the morning. Use their favorite yogurt as a dip, and you’ll have both a fruit serving and dairy serving for the day.
4. Drinking a serving of veggies? Did you know that a ½ cup of basic tomato sauce counts as a full vegetable serving? Consider a warm lunch by heating up last night’s pasta dinner, adding a ½ cup of tomato sauce and a little Parmesan cheese for a delicious home-cooked lunch. Kids need the complex carbohydrate of pasta to provide energy for after-school activities as well as for normal brain function. This meal will stay warm for a few hours in an insulated thermos.
5. Pack what your child likes. There’s really no point in packing a healthy lunch that you know your child won’t eat. Take them to the grocery store, add some new foods to their diet gradually, ask them to help you prepare the new foods, and make sure you feed them a balanced and varied diet at home. Most children tend to eat healthy foods if offered different foods.
Preparing healthy snacks for after school is essential. School lunch can be as early as 10 a.m. or as late as 1 p.m. Depending on your child’s lunch time, he or she could be starving by the time school’s out. For children with after-school activities, this scenario could leave them at the mercy of vending machines. The key here is to maximize nutrition and offer green-light foods to hold them over until the family gets together for dinner.
1. We all know how important fruits and vegetables are – keep them washed and available. Instead of having cookies and chips at children’s fingertips, choose fruits that will retain quality even out of the refrigerator, like grapes, cherry tomatoes, small pears and apples, bananas, and oranges. Even pre-packaged fruit bowls are a good idea.
2. Make a high-energy trail mix. Trail mix will maintain its freshness even with changes in temperature. Remember, you want to maximize nutrition, especially if you have an active child. Granola, nuts and dried fruit will certainly do that. It’s ok to add a few chocolate pieces that will give this healthy treat the cool edge children are looking for. Small snack bags are the perfect size for trail mix. And can’t do nuts? No problem; sunflower seeds and soy nuts are a great protein alternative!
3. Make-ahead snacks. Pizza English muffins are a classic but a favorite. Make a bunch of these over the weekend, wrap in aluminum foil and freeze. Older children can simply pop these in the toaster oven for a snack that requires very little effort.
4. If they insist on potato chips … switch to light or low-fat popcorn. Popcorn is actually a whole grain and an excellent alternative to fat-filled chips.
5. Make a fun cheese snack. String cheese is another wholesome snack that provides protein, as well as vitamins and minerals, which are important to a growing child. Add a small tortilla and wrap up your string cheese for an easy snack.
* It’s ok to snack! Snacks are a necessity for growing children and can be part of a healthy diet with the right foods.
* Encourage more fruits and veggies by having them washed and in plain sight so that your children see them when they get home.
* For children with after-school activities, make sure you pack a nutrient-filled snack to provide enough energy to get them through their activities.
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