Whether your kids are excited to get back to school or reluctant to let go of the lazy days of summer, you can set them up for success this school year by starting their days with well-balanced, nutritious breakfasts.
While kids may prefer toaster pastries and sugary cereals, healthy, substantial breakfasts will help them stay full, focused, and ready to endure their long days at school.
"Our cars don't run well on empty and neither do our bodies or our minds," says Kathy James, DNSc, FNP, FAAN, associate professor of nursing at the University of San Diego. "Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar and irritable, sleepy children."
The most important thing to keep in mind when preparing breakfast for your kids is to provide a balanced meal that includes protein, healthy fats, fruit and complex carbohydrates.
James recommends using whole fruit instead of juice whenever possible because many juices are high in sugar, and whole fruits will provide more fiber.
No matter how busy your morning routine may be, carve out some time for a healthy breakfast.
Here are some ideas for nutritious morning meals:
- Cereal with nonfat, low-fat, soy or almond milk, and fruit
- Scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast
- Yogurt with fruit and nuts (Be sure to check the sugar content in the yogurt)
- Hot cereal with nonfat, low-fat, soy or almond milk, dried fruit and nuts
- A grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Corn tortillas with cheese and salsa
More: 9 Back-to-School Tips
Getting Reluctant Kids to Eat Healthy
It's not always easy convincing children to eat healthy foods, and it may seem easier to feed them unhealthy, sugary breakfasts such as cereal, pancakes or waffles. Remember that you need to set a positive example and encourage your kids to eat healthy, nourishing foods.
"Parents are in charge of what comes into their homes—not the kids," James says. "If your kids are used to eating sugary foods, you can start by combining a low-sugar cereal with the sweeter cereal. If your kids like pancakes or waffles, buy the whole-wheat variety and use berries instead of sugary toppings."
If your son or daughter is hesitant to eat fruits and vegetables, James recommends providing options. Kids love the opportunity to make their own choices so ask your son or daughter, "Would you like string beans or carrots? Would you prefer an apple or an orange?" Your kids will be more willing to eat their food if they feel they have a choice in the matter.