Kids & breakfast real life advice

Kids and breakfast – it’s an uneasy alliance. On a typical school day, breakfast often gets shelved in favor of a few extra minutes of sleep, an “I’m not hungry” claim, or a waiting school bus. And when they do eat, parents pat themselves on the back because, ‘at least they ate something’ before their kids went charging out the door. But just because a belly is full, doesn’t mean the brain and muscles are getting the fuel they need.

Recently, Herbalife sponsored a survey* among parents of children aged 6-12, to get an idea of how many kids usually have breakfast at home in the morning before going off to school, and also to find out what they’re typically eating. Of the more than 1100 parents surveyed nationwide, 73 percent said that their kids ate breakfast at home every day before going off to school – while only about 5 percent reported that their kids always skipped it.

That was the good news. But what the kids were eating cast a bit of a shadow on the findings. Most kids were having plenty of refined carbs with their morning meals, but not much protein. And fruit intake was pretty scanty, too.

Kids’ top breakfast choices were refined grain products – foods like cold cereal, waffles, pancakes, toast and bagels. Fewer than half of those surveyed said that their kids typically ate protein-rich foods like eggs or yogurt in the morning, and only 41 percent said that their kids ate fruit before leaving for school.

There’s more to breakfast than a full stomach. Kids need healthy carbohydrates –like whole grain breads and cereals and fresh fruits – to provide fuel to active muscles and busy brains. And a good shot of protein in the morning – from foods like eggs and low fat dairy products – not only keeps kids from getting too hungry, it also helps to keep them mentally alert. A recent USDA report said that our kids aren’t getting nearly enough calcium, vitamin D, potassium or fiber in their diets – all of which could be supplied by a breakfast that included fruit, dairy products and whole grains.

We’re all busy in the morning – and so it may be tempting to take the path of least resistance when it comes to making sure that kids eat. If they say they’re not hungry, why push? If they’re in a rush, busy parents may find it easier – or believe it’s faster – to pick something up than to help kids put together a healthy breakfast at home.
But I wonder.

The newsstand I walk to every morning is right next to a donut shop and around the corner from my neighborhood elementary school. I’m always astonished at how many parents are buying their grade-school kids greasy donuts and sugary coffee drinks at 7:30 in the morning. Does it really take that much longer to prepare a bowl of high-fiber cereal and fruit, to make a slice of whole grain toast to be eaten with a carton of yogurt, or whip up a quick protein smoothie in the blender?

*Survey of US adult population, conducted by Synovate eNation, 9-15-2010 through 9-24-2010, margin of error +/- 3 percentage points.



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