The word says it all: BREAKFAST means this is the first meal of the day after a night of fasting. Special attention should be paid to this important meal, which many of our kids overlook as unimportant. Some argue the lack of time as the excuse to skip breakfast. Others mention the hectic morning routine, with other chores to attend to, or the early hour they must get up in order to get to school in time.

Those who have made a habit of eating something in the morning don’t necessarily choose the right food to ensure a provision of energy for the early hours of the day. Most of our breakfast foods are loaded with empty calories and simple carbohydrates. We’re given a false sense of satiety, but that fades a couple of hours later because the body quickly absorbs the nutrients, leaving us with emptiness in the middle of the morning, when we most need the energy to get through to lunch.

The increased incidence of obesity in our pediatric population requires more care when planning meals. Good nutrition should be applied to all age groups, starting with the little ones.

Here are examples of typical breakfast food obese children reach for in the morning (often because the adults in their lives do the same):

  • Pancakes
  • Pop tarts
  • High sugar cereals
  • Muffins
  • Juice
  • Milk

Of all those, I would save only the milk, and possibly the juice, in the trimming process of making breakfast what it should be. Cereal is a good morning food, if you choose the whole bran kind without sugars added.

Here is what happens after a high carbohydrate meal. The body takes in the carbohydrates and stimulates the production of Insulin by the pancreas. Our blood sugar shoots up rapidly, and plummets just as fast, encouraged by the hormone Insulin. The initial feeling of being full is short lived, and we’re left with low energy the rest of the morning.

How to solve the problem? It all starts with a more balanced meal, providing some carbohydrates, but also a fair amount of protein and fiber to slow down the absorption of nutrients. Some examples of protein would be eggs, meats, cheese and milk. They are also easily accessible and fast to prepare. The balance provided by the combination of protein and carbohydrates, together with the slowing-down effect of fiber, provides a meal that will last through the morning, giving our kids the mental alertness they need to get their schoolwork done.

Here are examples of breakfast foods that are fast and nutritious. They are easy to prepare and can be rotated throughout the week to encourage good eating habits. Get rid of the processed food in your pantry and opt for healthier choices.

Healthy Breakfast Example 1

  • 1 glass of milk
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 1 piece of whole-wheat toast with butter and jelly.

Healthy Breakfast Example 2

  • 1 glass of Calcium fortified orange juice
  • 1 slice of cheese and 1 slice of low salt, low nitrates deli ham, rolled-up
  • 1 piece of whole-wheat toast
  • 1 apple

Healthy Breakfast Example 3

  • 1 glass of milk
  • 1 apple and 3 strawberries cut up and mixed with yogurt
  • 1 slice of low nitrates, low salt deli turkey.

Healthy Breakfast Example 4

  • One bowl of milk with whole bran cereal and 1 banana
  • 1 slice of low nitrates, low salt deli chicken.

When aiming for good nutrition, improvisation is the number one enemy. Have all the ingredients ready the day before and enjoy a good breakfast and a good morning. Depending on the age and size of the child he/she may be able to eat all the items on the breakfast examples or just part of them. It doesn’t matter; they are all good and appropriate. Have a good breakfast and a good morning.

About the Author

Dr. Katalenas

Dr. Katalenas is a pediatrician and owner of The Pediatric Center of Round Rock and the author of the book "The Step Up Diet: From Scratch… The Quality, Quantity, and Timing Solution to Childhood Obesity", a guide to healthy cooking and eating for busy families.