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Get the Best of Breakfast

Major League nutritionist Cynthia Sass provides practical advice for making the first meal of the day a speedy and healthy one.

By Carolyn Buchanan | November , 2009
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Registered dietitian and personal trainer Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D., is the nutrition consultant to the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays—last year’s World Series opponents. With Sass’s winning record, we asked her to step up to the plate and share ideas about school-day breakfasts.

Parent & Child: Are Major Leaguers good breakfast eaters?
Cynthia Sass:
Like everyone, they sometimes underestimate the importance of eating breakfast. They tend to make two mistakes: not eating breakfast at all or eating a breakfast that’s made of empty calories—calories without any vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, or fiber. But in my opinion, skipping breakfast is worse than eating a donut, a bowl of sugary cereal, or even a can of cola—because the effects of “running on empty” are worse.

P&C: What happens when you skip breakfast?
Sass:
Fuel keeps your brain, nervous system, and muscles going. When none is available, your body does two things to compensate. First, it switches into conservation mode and burns fewer calories, so your energy level stays low, and your brain and body don’t perform at their best. Second, you dip into your fuel reserves, including your body’s own muscle mass. Over time, this can lead to weight gain. To avoid this, try to eat within one hour of waking up.

P&C: What fuel do you recommend?
Sass:
An ideal breakfast has five elements: whole grains, produce (fruit and/or vegetables), lean protein, “good” fat, and plenty of fluid. Great examples include:

• Whole-grain toast with almond butter, a glass of skim or soy milk, fresh fruit, and water.

• Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal mixed with skim or soy milk, chopped nuts and fruit, and water.

• A whole-grain English muffin or pita filled with scrambled egg whites or tofu, veggies and sliced avocado, and water.

P&C: What if you don’t have time to make an ideal breakfast?
Sass:
Quick healthy breakfasts can be made from scratch, like toast with almond butter and a smoothie. There are also many healthy convenience foods like whole-grain frozen waffles, frozen fruit with no added ingredients, and quick-cooking whole oats.

P&C: Teachers sometimes tell students to have an egg on the morning of a test. Why is that?
Sass:
Eggs are full of protein, which improves mental alertness. Having protein with grains helps slow the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates so you have better control over blood sugar and insulin levels, which helps you feel more level physically and mentally. 

For more info, visit Cynthia Sass's website.

About the Author

Carolyn Buchanan is a contributing editor to Scholastic Parent & Child.

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