Do your kids eat a healthy breakfast every morning? How about their friends?
Every family’s situation is unique. Some have two working parents, some have been through separations or divorces. And some have kids with early morning sports and activities like swimming or hockey. Regardless of your family’s exact circumstances, the one thing most families have in common is how challenging it is to give your kids a healthy breakfast!
Sometimes this habit trickles down from our own diet habits as parents. For instance, do you eat breakfast every morning? (Healthy or not.) If you don't, research shows that that your kids might not either.
Is breakfast really that important?
Many of us have heard for years that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Although our eyes may glaze over from the constant refrain, doctors and educators still indicate that a nutritious breakfast is particularly important, especially for kids, supplying the energy they need for a busy school day. A healthy breakfast provides children with critical nutrients for proper physical and mental development. It can also be essential for maintaining a healthy body weight, which may protect children against future risks of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
How do we get our kids to eat a healthy breakfast?
Now that we know a healthy breakfast really is important, here are 6 suggestions to help us make it happen for our kids:
Include 3 main components: grains, fruit, and dairy. Focus on whole grains and low- or non-fat milk or yogurt for the dairy.
Prepare breakfast early: Saving time in any way always helps us immensely when it comes to serving a nutritious meal (or any meal for that matter!). One of the best techniques is prepping your food early. If you have young children that drink milk in bottles or sippy cups, pour it the night before. Cut up fruit the prior evening. Make pancakes or French toast and freeze individual portions that you can toast in the morning.
Involve your children: Let your kids help plan the meals – getting them involved should increase their interest. If your kids are old enough to help with breakfast itself, put items on the lower shelves in the refrigerator or cupboard so that they can get things without your help.
Focus on your kids’ preferences: While we may want to expand their palates, busy mornings are typically not the best time for these battles! Work within healthy options. For example, if they don’t like milk, let your kids choose their favorite flavors of low-fat yogurt or make a smoothie the night before with fruits that they like.
Experiment: A single magic solution does not exist (though we can still dream it does!). Even kids from the same family have different preferences, so experiment to figure out what works best for each member of your family. But as I mention in Tip #4 – wait to do this on the weekends or holidays, when you have more time to work through any resistance.
- Check the availability of school breakfasts: To tackle the issue head on, more and more schools are now offering a healthy breakfast program. Check if your children's schools are one of them. And if you do sign your kids up for their school’s breakfast, make sure they’re not suddenly eating two breakfasts!
Can we really make a difference getting our kids to eat healthy food?
Watch this one minute video clip from a recent visit to Holy Cross Elementary School in New York City. Although healthy living starts with parents and teachers, the kids’ excitement quickly conveys how much they also care about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. (Keep an eye out for their energetic principal, Mr. Zalamea, approximately 18 seconds into the clip. He’s great!)
Although changing the routine of our kids’ diet can initially feel overwhelming, especially with our already overpacked schedules, you’ll be surprised how quickly incorporating these tips will make a real difference in kickstarting your kids’ day for the better.
Have any healthy breakfast tips you use with your kids? Share them with us on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.