Helping Kids Eat Healthy

Getting your kids to eat healthy can be challenging, especially in the hectic mornings before school.

But there are ways to make the morning rush less hassled and create a habit they will continue through adulthood.

Start with something easy that the entire family takes time to share. Kids who see their parents eating breakfast are much more likely to eat it themselves, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 

“Breakfast is a great meal to share with your children. As children grow older, they are more likely to skip breakfast, which could affect their academic performance. I encourage parents to serve as role models by practicing a healthful morning routine that includes breakfast,” says registered dietitian, nutritionist and Academy Spokesperson Amy Reed of Cincinnati.

A 2013 analysis of 36 articles examining the effects of breakfast on in-class behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents, both undernourished and well-nourished, found evidence of a positive effect of breakfast on behavior in the classroom. The analysis found evidence that the frequency and quality of habitual breakfast had a positive effect on children’s academic performance, with clearest effects on mathematic and arithmetic grades. In addition, increased frequency of habitual breakfast was positively associated with overall academic performance. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 

Children should fuel their mornings with food from the different food groups; try to include a protein, fruit or vegetable, and whole grain. Foods made with whole-grain flours, such as whole-wheat flakes, whole-wheat bread or whole-grain waffles, contain carbohydrates for energy and provide dietary fiber, as do fruits and vegetables. Including protein foods, such as eggs, Canadian bacon or low-fat cottage cheese from the dairy group, can help keep them full until lunch.

Here are some practical ideas for a healthy breakfast.

— Make overnight oatmeal by mixing oats with fresh or frozen fruit, low-fat milk and low-fat yogurt for a ready-to-eat morning meal.

— Buy frozen whole-wheat waffles to toast and spread with a nut or seed butter or top with fruit, such as a banana.

— Prepare homemade egg bites with vegetables the night before, then reheat in the morning.

— Repurpose leftover roasted vegetables to make hash with eggs and turkey sausage.

— Add sliced turkey, ham or chicken and a slice of low-fat cheese to a toasted English muffin.

— Use last night’s spinach to scramble or bake into a quiche with eggs and low-fat cheese.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Ill., and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @Nutrition Rd. .


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