Casey Seidenberg, co-founder of Nourish Schools, a Washington, D.C.-based nutrition education company, answered questions about giving kids a smart start to the school year:
Q: When trying to get breakfast on the table, cereal is the quickest way to go. But are cereals such as Cheerios and Chex really all that healthy?
A: Processed cereals are not as healthful as whole-grain options such as whole oatmeal.
The grains in a processed cereal have been broken down, so they don’t provide all of the nutrition a whole grain would, and they often lack fiber, so they enter the bloodstream more quickly than a whole grain, which leaves a child hungry sooner.
A better bet for a quick breakfast is a homemade whole-grain muffin, or presoaked oatmeal that can be heated quickly.
Q: I switched the term “breakfast” to mean “eat something.” It could be scrambled eggs on toast or a meatloaf sandwich. Some days it was a serving spoon of peanut butter and a glass of milk. Other days it was homemade milkshake with frozen fruit.
A: Leftovers often make a great breakfast. We don’t need to eat the very American cereals and baked goods.
Meats and broth and greens are traditional morning meals in many countries and are a fantastic way to begin any day.
Q: My daughter who’s starting kindergarten just plain isn’t hungry in the morning. It takes at least two hours for her stomach to “wake up.”
I’ve tried smoothies, cereal, pancakes, muffins and all kinds of “treats,” but she just won’t touch anything. Any thoughts?
A: My advice would be to do three things. First, explain to your child how important breakfast is to a growing child. The website www.breakfastfirst.org has some simple statistics and easy-to-explain facts.
This might not change her behavior immediately, but it may teach her to make the right choices when away from you.
Second, see whether you can pack her something to eat on the way to school or even at her desk. If discussed in advance, many teachers will allow a child to eat something at school if there is a good reason for it.
Third, think about lighter foods such as smoothies (which I know you have tried).
Ask your child whether it would feel better for her to have a smoothie or a little fruit and plain yogurt instead of something heavier like oatmeal or a baked good. She might be more open to foods if they are labeled “lighter.”