Brainy Breakfasts: Tips from the Sears Family Kitchen
By Dr. William Sears
My number one concern as a pediatrician and father of eight is the fact that each day millions of children start their morning without breakfast or with an unhealthy one. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it "jump-starts" the brain in the morning. "Breakfast" means just what it says: breaking the overnight fast. Eating breakfast allows a child to restock depleted energy and begin the day with a full tank of fuel - and ideally, the right fuel. Sending your child off for the day without a good breakfast is like driving your car without enough gas.
Messengers in the brain, called neurotransmitters, help make the right connections that enable and enhance memory performance, motor skills, and behavior. Food influences how these transmitters operate. The ideal breakfast combines proteins, carbohydrates, and "good" fats, starting a child off with a brain that is primed to learn.
Why breakfast is important:
- Research shows breakfast eaters generally make higher grades, pay closer attention, and manage more complex academic problems than breakfast skippers.
- Breakfast skippers are more likely to have poor eating habits throughout the rest of the day, eating more calories or less nutritious foods and giving in to junk-food cravings.
- Some children are also more emotionally vulnerable than others when they skip breakfast.
- Children who eat high calcium foods for breakfast show enhanced behavior and learning.
Encouraging good breakfast eating habits early in life helps ensure children meet their nutrient requirements in the short term and builds good eating habits for a lifetime. Here are some tips for parents to fit breakfast into a busy schedule:
- Give yourself time. Wake up five to ten minutes earlier so you all have time to eat breakfast.
- Set up a "breakfast bar." If quick grazing is all you have time for, make breakfast a buffet.
- Plan the night before. Choose what you'll serve, get dry foods ready and set the table.
- Vary the menu. Kids get bored with the same old thing, so try something new each week.
- Cold pizza is OK! Don't rule out non-traditional breakfast foods that are high in nutrition and kid appeal.
If your mornings resemble rush hour traffic, with not a lot of time to prepare breakfast, try what we do in the Sears family kitchen: make a yogurt smoothie. Yogurt is one of the best choices for breakfast: it's rich in protein and calcium, comes in a wide variety of flavors and varieties, and kids love it.
Yummy Yogurt Smoothie
- 8 oz. plain yogurt (or any flavor you and your child prefer)
- 6 large, frozen strawberries
- 1 sliced frozen banana
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 1 Tbsp. flaxseed oil (available at local health food stores, flaxseed oil enhances brain development)
- Milk, juice, rice or soy beverage (to desired amount)
Mix ingredients and blend until smooth. Add liquids for desired consistency. Serve immediately after blending while the mixture still has a bubbly, milkshake quality.