When it comes to getting kids back to school, a healthy breakfast is just as important as new clothes and sharp pencils.
“By morning, kids have been fasting for up to 12 hours -- even longer than a school day,” says Carol Dombrow, dietitian for Breakfast for Learning (BFL), the leading national nonprofit organization working to ensure that every child in Canada attends school well nourished and ready to learn.
Not only does a nutritious breakfast help kids stay alert in class, says Dombrow, but studies show that children who eat breakfast are more creative and have improved memory, problem-solving and verbal skills. Undernourished children, meanwhile, have more difficulty focusing on tasks, have lower self-esteem and are absent more from school.
Start the day right
To rev up your mornings, the BFL dietitian advises serving one item from at least three of the food groups in Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating. Consider cereal or a whole grain muffin, a piece of fruit or glass of juice and a glass of milk or yogurt. Another terrific breakfast is whole grain toast, a poached egg and an orange.
Once you've got healthy ingredients on hand, assemble an easy-access “breakfast bar” so kids can help themselves, says Dombrow. Store milk and juice in easy-pour containers in the fridge and place yogurt and cheese on a lower shelf. Hang a clock in the kitchen to keep track of time.
Avoid morning chaos
To make mornings even more stress-free, she advises starting the night before. Have kids set the table with their favourite breakfast bowls and utensils, as well as bringing out the cereal, muffins and bread before they go to bed.
Picking out clothes, packing school supplies and preparing lunch at night will also save time when the alarm rings.
Parents, meanwhile, can play an important part as a role model. Start your day with a healthy breakfast and your children are more likely to follow your lead. “Mornings are rushed for everyone,” says Dombrow, “but it's never too early to teach kids good breakfast habits and give their day a healthy start.”
To learn more about Breakfast for Learning, visit www.breakfastforlearning.ca or call 1-800-627-7922.
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