When preparing students for their first days back to school, West Virginia University Extension Service’s public health specialists remind parents that one of the best ways to ensure a healthy and productive day is beginning with a balanced breakfast.
“Proper nutrition is absolutely vital to a child’s performance, whether it’s in school, in sports, or somewhere else,” according to Kristin McCartney, public health specialist at the WVU Extension Service. “A balanced breakfast should contain the nutrients a child needs to jumpstart the morning and tackle the day’s responsibilities.”
Research shows skipping breakfasts impacts more than physical health—it also affects school performance. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, less tardiness, higher test scores and better concentration.
“Eating a healthy breakfast is a great way to kick-start your metabolism and give you sustained energy throughout the day,” said McCartney. “This is especially important for children because they need focus for optimal learning potential.”
The types of food eaten in the morning are also critical to achieving healthy weight and staying full until lunchtime. A balanced breakfast should incorporate a variety of foods, with good options including fruits, whole grains and plenty of protein from foods like eggs and dairy.
Eating protein such as eggs, yogurt or milk keeps children satiated as they start the school day, while maintaining healthy blood sugar levels throughout the morning.
In a rush? Breakfasts don’t have to be planned hours in advance. Keeping pre-made, healthy convenience foods kids can grab as they dash out the door help keep them on track. Quick, healthy breakfasts include:
• Hard boiled eggs and fresh fruit
• Whole grain cereal (McCartney suggests choosing a variety with less than six grams sugar), using low fat milk and adding fresh berries
• Oatmeal made with low fat milk and garnished fresh fruit
• Yogurt smoothie and a whole grain breakfast bar
• Whole wheat English muffin with scrambled egg and melted, low-fat cheese
• Low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit
According to McCartney, the key is to start small. Even a healthy breakfast bar is better than nothing at all.
“Give yourself time to wake up before breakfast and set a realistic expectation of what works for your family,” said McCartney. “I’m a working mom with three kids, and many times that means a protein bar with yogurt or fruit for breakfast. It doesn’t have to be gourmet to help your child have a healthy and productive day.”
The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education.
CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU Extension Service
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