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Getting Kids to Eat Breakfast

Mission (Not) Impossible: Kids Eating a Healthy Breakfast

If someone said to you “Do not feed your child for 16 hours!” you might say, “No way! That’s downright cruel!” That is what happens when kids do not eat breakfast. If they eat supper, say, around 6:30 PM and don’t put anything nutritious into their bodies until lunch time the next day, perhaps around 11:30 AM, that’s 16 hours. That is cruel!

Often skipping breakfast becomes the norm. Parents become convinced that their child is “not a morning person” and this includes not eating in the morning as well. Our bodies were designed to consume food in the morning, perhaps not as soon as we wake, but “breaking the fast” from the night’s sleep is an intended activity. Our metabolisms depend upon food and activity to get started. (Not sugar and stress!) The inner workings of our bodies respond to nutritious substances by turning on our brains and revving up our pathways that produce energy, and for kids, supporting growth.

If kids do not get breakfast, they miss out on an opportunity to consume some of the most nutritious foods we have to offer.

Eggs: Eggs, being the classic breakfast food often saved for weekends due to perceived time constraints, have been identified by the World Health Organization as having an amino acid profile (building blocks of protein) to which all proteins are compared. Protein is essential for growing bodies. By the way, from getting the egg out of the carton, whisking it in a bowl, heating the butter in the pan, cooking the egg and putting it on the plate, a scrambled egg takes less that six minutes to prepare. I’ve timed it. Can you beat my time?

Milk: Another excellent source of protein for body growth, milk also supplies calcium. How do we love calcium? Let me count the ways: bone growth, teeth support, osteoporosis prevention, blood pressure stabilization, and when supplied in low fat dairy products, weight loss promoter. Wow!

Orange Juice: Oranges, and all of its citrus cousins, provide so much more than just Vitamin C. The B Vitamins found naturally in oranges support the cellular pathways in our body that make energy. And we all know how much energy kids need!

Oatmeal: Do we ever eat oatmeal at any other time of day? Rarely. But oatmeal provides those before mentioned B vitamins, protein and fiber. Remember, little guts need fiber just as much as grown ones do to stay healthy.

If at this point you are thinking: “My kids won’t touch any of those foods, and I am lucky to get even two bites of anything in them”, do not abandon the mission. Take what you have and work with it. If your child is a sugar seeker in the morning, try to get them to have a bite of fruit, some applesauce or some fruit flavored yogurt.

And not too much at first, just ease them into it. Put 1-2 bites of a healthier food on a plate with the sugar selection of the week, and see if they will at least try the new food. Because research shows that some kids have to be given a new food ten times before they will actually try eating it, exercise patience. Consider a couple of dollops of strawberry yogurt on a plate next to a couple bites of a sweet fruit and encourage them to dip. (Put toothpicks in the fruit; it might help, as sometimes the little ones love this. I stay away from the ones with really sharp points, lest they be used as weapons!)

Then, add another protein source. Try to get kids to drink some type of milk for the protein. Would your child enjoy a couple of cheese cubes or a string cheese in the morning? Peanut butter is awfully yummy when spread upon a warm pancake or waffle. Have you ever noticed how it melts a little? And although it’s not especially high in protein, but some is better that none, bacon next to most breakfast foods is eaten with a smile. Consider the precooked bacons now available at your grocery store, as these products can really save time.

This brings up another aspect of the mission: time. If you need to get up 15 minutes earlier to ensure that your kids “break the fast”, please accept the mission! It is so important to their bodies, their brains, and their day! If this means getting your kids up earlier, which is another common reason for skipping breakfast, again start out slow. After you have mastered your own slightly earlier rise time, try getting your kids up five minutes earlier, and have a breakfast idea already in mind.

Consider having a handful of mini-pancakes (check out the awesome microwave products in the breakfast freezer section) with peanut butter sitting on the counter with some sliced fruit, i.e. bananas. Encourage them to make little sandwiches with two of the mini pancakes, adding fruit in the middle if desired. Pop ’em in the mouth and go! Just as easy as Poptarts, but so, so, so much better for your kids’ growing bodies.

If you are enabling a household of breakfast skippers, this could be a mission of challenge. Be consistent and persevere! Continue to offer some of these suggested breakfast foods every morning, utilize a little cunning and a lot of encouragement. It takes support from others, and family support means the most, to make changes, even changes that are good for us. And remember the rewards: healthier bodies and better growth, clearer brains and stronger bones, and a chance to actually sit down with your kids in the morning and say, “I love you, have a nice day!”

That’s your mission. Do you accept it?