Yes, it’s true – breakfast is the most important meal of the day and yet too many adults and children leave the house each day with little, or nothing, in their stomachs. Not only does breakfast kick-start our metabolism, it feeds the body and brain and provides the energy and stamina your child needs to pay attention in class, get schoolwork done and participate in physical activities. Children who miss breakfast are often tired, irritable, restless and less focused than their full-bellied classmates.
We all know the benefits of a healthy breakfast, but how do we get our kids to eat if they’re ‘not hungry’, ‘running late’ or ‘can’t make up their mind’? Try some of these suggestions:
- A smoothie. Blended fruit, milk (and perhaps a dollop of yoghurt) and ice make a great breakfast.
- A toasted sandwich. Instead of boring old toast, make a cheese and tomato, or banana, toasted sandwich which, at a pinch, she can eat on the way to school.
- Offer toppings for cereal. Cereal out of the box day in and day out, can get really boring, so try adding fresh or tinned fruit slices, dried fruit, nuts, honey or golden syrup to spice things up.
- Go the savoury route. Anything can be breakfast – last night’s leftover pasta, a toasted bagel with baked beans, toast with roast chicken on top. Don’t get locked into offering only cereal, eggs or toast.
- Breakfast on the run. If your child really does have to leave the house four minutes after she’s rolled out of bed, toss her a cereal bar, a tub of yoghurt, a banana, or a bag of cereal mixed with trail mix. She can eat these on the run and still arrive at school fuelled up.
Best snacking tips
- Snacks can be the quickest and most deadly way to kill good eating habits, so try to plan ahead for snacks in the same way you do for dinner.
- It’s easy to undo all the work you put into providing a nutritious and balanced diet at mealtimes by offering highly salted and sugared snacks.
- A snack should be a small amount of food given to keep your child going until the next main meal – try to avoid presenting your child with a large plate of food at snack time, as this may then take the place of the next meal.
- Try cutting fruit for children who baulk at the idea of eating a whole apple or banana.
- For children who have a long day – school followed by extra-curricular activities – try including a snack in their bag for between-time. Snacks are a really important way that children refuel during the day.
- Snacks are a great way to make up the nutrients your child may be missing in her meals. Can’t get her to eat cooked vegetables at dinner time? Try a mixed plate of veggie sticks with a dip.
- It’s a great idea when offering a snack, to try to offer foods from at least two of the food groups – apple and cheese, yoghurt and dried fruit, peanut butter and crackers.