You really want your child to have a great school year. You’ve bought the right school supplies, new outfits and a back pack. The transportation plan is in place. Your child has met his/her teachers. Now it’s time to buckle down and give your child the boost s/he really needs to be successful during the day … a nutritious breakfast.

“Children who eat breakfast have been shown to get higher grades and are less likely to be as depressed, anxious, fidgety or irritable by parents and teachers,” said Debby Demory-Luce, a registered dietician with the USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center. “They also think faster and more clearly, concentrate better, suffer less fatigue and are less likely to end up in the nurse’s office complaining of tummy aches and dizziness.” (1)

Studies show that kids who eat a nutritious breakfast pay closer attention, are more physically active, feel better and have more school success. (2)

In particular, protein and the minerals magnesium, iron and zinc along with essential fatty acids have been associated with increased communication among brain cells that promote learning, solving problems, paying attention and controlling emotional reactions. (3)

Common problems that hinder your child from getting a nutritious breakfast:

1. You don’t have time. In order to provide your child with a nutritious breakfast you need to make sure that there’s time to actually eat it. Wake your child up 10-15 minutes earlier to allow time to eat or make sure that clothes are laid out and his/her backpack is ready by the door to save a little time in the morning. Have lunches or snacks pre-packed the night before.

2. My child’s not hungry when s/he wakes up. Pack the most nutrition possible into the least amount of food. Look for nutrition/breakfast bars that are packed with nutrients by reading the Nutrition Facts on the box. (Pria and Luna bars are two brands that are great.) Have your child wash it down with a glass of milk or 100% fruit juice. Consider making your child a vitamin-rich high-protein breakfast shake.

3. My child’s not interested in eating well. Involve your child in experimenting with different breakfast choices. Create a menu of options that your child likes that are still nutritious. Also, consider adding soy protein (available at health food stores in bulk) to breakfast muffins or other baked foods.

If you’d like to educate your child on the importance of eating well, here’s a link to an article that describes children’s nutritional needs based on the food pyramid. http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/food/pyramid.html .

Or, children ages 6-11 can play an interactive game to learn about nutrition at this site: http://www.mypyramid.gov/kids/kids_game.html

Here are some ideas for foods that will help your child get a jump start on his/her day:
• Peanut butter on whole grain toast, muffin or bagel
• A handful of his/her favorite nuts (i.e. ¼ C. of cashews has 7 grams of protein)
• Trail mix (i.e. ½ C. nuts with ¼ C. of dried fruit and ½ C. of whole grain cereal)
• Cheese or peanut butter tortilla (Mission Carb Balance Tortillas have 5 grams of protein ad 11 grams of fiber.)
• Calcium-fortified ready-to-eat cereal
• A yogurt, fruit and granola “parfait”
• Ready-to-Whir Smoothie (Take ½ C. of fruit and ½ C. of yogurt and freeze them in zip-lock bags. In the morning, put this in a blender with ½ C. milk and ½ C. juice and blend.) (4)
• Instant oatmeal (quick and very nutritious)
• Krusteaz Wheat and Honey Pancake Mix (Make a double batch and store them in a Ziploc bag and reheat another day.)
• Legal Donuts at http://www.thesneakychef.com/free_recipes.php

If you’d like to create a detailed nutritional plan, here are two options:

1. To calculate an individualized nutritional plan for your child go to: http://www.mypyramid.gov/mypyramid/index.aspx

2. For a worksheet you or your child can use to track nutritional intake go to: http://www.mypyramid.gov/mypyramid/index.aspx
You wouldn’t think of sending your child off to school without his/her backpack and supplies so why not think of a nutritious breakfast as another essential tool your child needs to have a great day and year at school?!

References:
1. USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine: http://www.kidsnutrition.org/consumer/archives/breakfast-fuel.htm

2. http://www.kidsnutrition.org/consumer/archives/school-pastry.htm

3. “Parenting Children with ADHD: 10 Lessons that Medicine Cannot Teach,” Vincent Monastra, Ph.D., 2005, American Psychological Association, p. 76-77.

4. Family Fun, “A Better Breakfast,” Sept. 2006, p. 64.

Author's Bio: 

Visit www.getparentinghelpnow.com to receive the free mini-course “The 7 Worst Mistakes Parents Make (and How to Avoid Them!) and find instant answers to 17 common parenting problems. Toni Schutta is a Parent Coach and Licensed Psychologist with 15 years experience helping families find solutions that work.

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