What does your back to school shopping list look like? Number 2 pencils, glue sticks, Pee Chee folders or even (if you can find one) a Trapper Keeper? Before you head to the checkout line, let’s take a detour to the breakfast aisle. Breakfast is an important way to prepare for the school day as well.
About 8-12 percent of school-age kids skip breakfast, and in teens this number creeps up to 20-30 percent. Many kids will opt for sleeping in an extra 15 minutes rather than eating a bowl of cereal. Some may choose to skip breakfast to try to lose weight (this typically backfires; more on that later).
We do know there are many benefits to eating breakfast. Children do better in school, have increased concentration and more energy. The fiber consumed can help with weight control and lower cholesterol. Calcium builds stronger bones (helping children for decades to come) and Vitamin D helps with absorbing that calcium and may boost immunity.
The misconception of weight gain from eating breakfast was debunked in a 2008 study in the journal of Pediatrics. This study showed teens who ate breakfast daily had a lower BMI (body mass index) than teens who never ate breakfast or occasionally ate breakfast.
Before we discuss what to eat, let me address things that might be in our shopping carts that we should take out. First, if your child has energetically argued that a marshmallow-based cereal is a critical part of the four food groups, kindly explain to him that it is not, and remove it from your cart. The nursery song goes, “Do you know the muffin man?” Well, we probably shouldn’t. If your toaster is exclusively used for Pop Tarts, that habit should probably change. And if you are giving your breakfast order at a drive-thru window, that habit should change as well.
What are some healthy alternatives?
One of my favorites is dry cereal that I throw in a sandwich bag and eat on my commute. This could include oat squares or mini-wheat biscuits. Cereal bars and granola bars are also healthy options. Fresh fruit, dried fruit and yogurt could also be eaten on the way to school. Try toast with peanut butter, or spread peanut butter on a pancake and roll it up. Even though our culture has frowned upon carbohydrates in general, kids need healthy carbs to give them energy for the school day.
Ideally, the more food groups you can have for breakfast, the better. And if you can sit down and eat breakfast with your child, that would be marvelous. If there’s not enough time for breakfast, earlier bedtimes may be in order (perhaps for both you and your child).
As a parent, you set the best example of what your child should be eating for breakfast. If this column has been good food for thought, keep it in the front of that new Pee Chee folder. You may now head to the checkout line.