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Help Your Child Make the Nutrition Honor Roll

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Good nutrition and learning go hand-in-hand, according to Stephen Pont, MD, MPH, medical director for the Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity and Children's/Austin ISD Student Health Services. Kids who are nutritionally fit are more likely to have energy, stamina and self-esteem that enhance their abilities to learn and be active.

Start your kids off with a good breakfast.

Breakfast is especially important as kids prepare for school each day. Don't let them eat a late dinner or snack before bed as they might not be hungry for breakfast. Even eating a small breakfast can help restore needed fuel after eight to 12 hours of sleep and provide a steady stream of energy needed until lunchtime.

Kids who have breakfast tend to have more strength and endurance, plus better concentration and problem-solving ability, according to the American Dietetic Association.

Choose foods for long-term energy.

The kinds of foods kids eat for breakfast can make a big difference in energy level, says Dr. Pont. Sugary foods such as sweetened cereals, donuts or soda can cause a quick rise in blood sugar and a rush of energy. However, that energy will dissipate quickly, a "crash and burn," explained Dr. Pont. It's much healthier to choose a balanced breakfast that includes protein, carbohydrates, a whole grain and fruits or vegetable to give a constant release of energy, "like a candle burning, rather than a quick flash of gunpowder," he added.

Dr. Pont recommends following the My Plate food chart.

Read the labels.

Many breakfast foods contain added sugar or fat that is unnecessary. Cereals aimed to attract kids with brightly-colored boxes, cartoon characters or named after candy are usually not healthy. Dr. Pont suggests reading the labels to be sure. Cereals, pre-sweetened oatmeal, breakfast bars and other breakfast foods should have 8 grams or less of sugar per serving. Choose high-fiber offerings with 3-4 or more grams of fiber per serving. Fiber helps you feel full longer, helps your kids have soft, regular bowel movements, and helps the body better pace the absorption of nutrients to keep that candle burning! Three grams is considered a "good" source of fiber, 5 grams is considered an "excellent" source.

Keep easy-to-fix foods on hand.

If time is an issue, keep healthy, quick-to-prepare foods on hand. Or select breakfast foods the night before and have them ready in the morning when you and the kids are on the go. Good choices include whole-grain mini cereal boxes, whole-grain bagels, yogurt, fresh fruit, low-fat white milk, high-fiber crackers and string cheese.

What if weight is an issue?

"It's never too late to make changes for your child's overall health," Dr. Pont said. "Children watch closely what their parents do, so it is important to set a good example by eating a healthy breakfast yourself."

Even little changes can make a difference:

  • Serve a whole piece of fruit (or cut it up) instead of fruit juice. It has more fiber and fills your child up more than a beverage.
  • Cook eggs using a non-stick cooking spray instead of a large pat of butter. Or hard boil them for a good source of protein.
  • Cook your own oatmeal and sweeten it with berries or just a little sugar. You'll generally use less than in the pre-sweetened packages.

Make it fun! Get your child involved.

When it comes to breakfast, think about making it fun. Get your child involved and he or she will be more likely to eat what you prepare.

  • Create funny faces with raisins and bananas on peanut butter-topped wheat toast.
  • Decorate pancakes with blueberries and strawberries.
  • Whip up a delicious smoothie out of fruit, yogurt and low-fat milk.
  • Kids can help make fruit kabobs or cut multi-grain toast into silly shapes with cookie cutters.
  • Try a new recipe that your children help with on the weekend.

Want more information?

Help Your Child Make the Nutrition Honor Roll
goodhealth.com


Good Health for Kids is produced by Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.