Encourage your child to eat a healthy breakfast

chow_090415_87621125It’s always a struggle to get my children to eat a good breakfast before school. How can I make them get up early enough to be sure they start the day right?

Breakfast is important for kids heading to the classroom: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises that regularly eating a nutrient-rich breakfast helps children in several ways, including improving school performance and helping with maintaining a healthy weight. A good breakfast — something that provides a variety of nutrient-rich foods — provides nourishment for both muscle power and brain power.

Eating a healthy breakfast doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Here are some ideas to help make sure the kids don’t skip out without fueling up first, courtesy of nutrition experts with various organizations, including the dietetics academy, the Food and Drug Administration, and eXtension.org, which is the online outreach presence of the nation’s land-grant university system:

  • Prepare the night before. Put breakfast cereal and bowls on the table or peanut butter and whole-grain bread on the counter to make breakfast easy to prepare.
  • Have easy-to-handle fruit available on the counter or in the refrigerator to eat on the way out the door. Bananas, apples, peaches, pears and plums are all easy to grab and go. Younger kids are even more likely to eat bite-size pieces of fruit. Try putting some slices of fruit in a small plastic bag to go.
  • Be sure to have plenty of healthful options on hand. Buy breakfast cereals or cereal bars made with whole grains and with 8 grams or less of sugar per serving. Choose nonfat or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, and whole-grain bread, English muffins and tortillas.
  • Leave your blender on the counter to make easy breakfast shakes. Combine frozen berries, milk or yogurt, and even some protein powder — or come up with your own recipe — and blend them together for a quick and filling morning treat.
  • Make breakfast wraps using whole-wheat tortillas filled with low-fat cheese and apple slices or peanut butter and banana slices.
  • Think outside the breakfast box. Nontraditional foods work just as well as scrambled eggs to fuel the body. Offer your kids string cheese, a handful of nuts or trail mix, tuna salad, leftover chicken breast, a peanut butter sandwich, or whole-wheat crackers with low-fat cheese.
  • Be a role model. If your kids see that you’re in too much of a rush and skip breakfast more often than not, then they will, too.

If you haven’t already, you should also check out your children’s school’s breakfast program. These days, more than 90 percent of schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program also offer breakfast, and in the last few years, new breakfast standards regarding whole grain-rich foods, calories, trans fats, sodium and other dietary considerations have gone into effect. If an at-home breakfast truly isn’t in the cards at your house, it’s likely a healthy breakfast at school is an option.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, Ohio State University Extension specialist in Youth Nutrition and Wellness.

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Details important in breakfast study

121682410I heard something about research showing that eating a big breakfast is good for people with diabetes. Can you tell me details? 

You probably saw some news coverage of a relatively small study reported at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes annual meeting in late September.

The findings were intriguing. Participants in the study’s “big breakfast” group ended up with blood sugar level reductions three times greater than those in the “small breakfast” group. About one-third of the big breakfast participants were able to reduce their daily diabetic medication within the study period of three months.

However, it’s important to remember some key facts: The study hasn’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so its findings are considered preliminary. Reports were based solely on the presentation and a press release from the association.

Also, the study involved just 59 people, was relatively brief and appeared to have a high dropout rate. So scientists are anxious to see if the results can be reproduced in more robust studies.

Finally, the big breakfasts in this study also had a higher percentage of protein and fat, which rules out high-carbohydrate morning fare such as a tall stack of pancakes with syrup.

In the study, participants who were in the big breakfast group ate 33 percent of their total daily calories at breakfast time, compared to 12.5 percent of total calories for the small breakfast group.

That means that for participants who consumed 1,800 calories a day, their “big breakfast” would have consisted of 600 calories. It’s not clear what the study participants actually ate, but an example of a 600-calorie breakfast that’s higher in protein and fat would be two extra-large eggs (160 calories); an ounce of cheddar cheese (115 calories); a whole-wheat honey English muffin (130 calories); a tablespoon of peanut butter (95 calories); and a cup of 1 percent milk (100 calories).

In comparison, people in the “small breakfast” group consuming the same 1,800 calories in a day would be limited to 225 calories for breakfast, with a lower proportion of protein and fat. Again, it’s not clear what was on their menu, but they might have had cereal with low-fat milk, for example, or a slice of toast with jam and orange juice.

While results are preliminary, consistently eating breakfast — especially one with lean protein — is associated with better weight management and lower blood sugar levels. Talk with your doctor or nutritionist for more information.

Why it’s important to eat breakfast

I know I should eat breakfast, but I rarely do. Can you explain why it’s so important? I’m always looking for ways to try to lose some extra pounds, and it seems like a good idea to not eat when I’m not hungry, which is typically in the morning.

On the surface, your habits make some sense. Nutritionists regularly encourage people to become more attuned to their inner hunger and appetite signals, and not eating (or stopping eating) when your hunger is satisfied is doing just that.

But this raises the question: Why aren’t you hungry in the morning? The whole reason the meal is called “breakfast” is because by eating it, you’re breaking the fast you’ve experienced overnight. Do you typically eat a heavy dinner or have a high-calorie snack at night? Cutting back later in the day might be more effective at helping you lose those extra pounds than skipping breakfast.

A new study sheds some light on why this might be. The British study, recently presented at the Neuroscience 2012 conference, focused on the differences in people’s brain activity when they skip breakfast and how that affects their calorie intake later in the day.

For the study, researchers asked participants to come in for two MRIs (magnetic resonance images, or brain scans) before they had anything to eat that day. On one of their visits, they were given breakfast before the MRI; on the other visit, they weren’t. All were given lunch after the tests.

The researchers found that when the fasting participants were shown pictures of high-calorie foods during the MRIs, the pleasure-seeking portion of the brain was activated more strongly than when they had eaten breakfast. The breakfast-skippers also ate more at lunch.

This finding supports other research that shows that eating breakfast can reduce overall food intake for the rest of the day.

In fact, an expert panel at the Institute of Food Technologists conference earlier this year reported that studies of young people show that those who don’t eat breakfast consume 40 percent more sweets, 55 percent more soft drinks, 45 percent fewer vegetables and 30 percent less fruit than those who do.

Breakfasts higher in protein, including yogurt, an egg (including egg in waffles or French toast) or even hummus, for example, seem to have a stronger effect.

So, see if you can change your morning routine to incorporate a breakfast that includes some protein. It just might make a difference in helping you lose those extra pounds.