Body & Fitness

Teaching good breakfast habits

When I was a kid, I didn't have to be nagged to eat breakfast. I had Vegemite on toast and a piece of fruit every day for most of my childhood and wouldn't have dreamed of heading to school without a full stomach. But getting kids to eat breakfast can be hard - especially foods that are healthy and will give them the energy they need. Here are some ideas.

Battles over the breakfast table are commonplace in many Kiwi homes. Around 36,000 Kiwi children aged between five and 14 never eat breakfast at home on a school day. For some parents it’s a struggle to get their kids to eat something healthy, rather than foods full of sugar, while others find it difficult to get their children to eat anything at all.

According to the Health Sponsorship Council, research shows breakfast foods need to be simple and fast because mornings are such busy times, and families get bored with cereals. But it can be tough coming up with tasty, healthy, easy-to-prepare options that the kids won’t turn their noses up at.

If breakfasts are a mission in your home, it is worth persevering – a good breakfast is important for good health.

Why your kids need to eat a good breakfast:

  • After not eating overnight, children need to refuel to get the day off to a good start. A good breakfast provides crucial energy.

  • Children who eat a good breakfast concentrate better at school and have improved mental performance, according to studies.

  • Eating breakfast helps with weight control. Children are less likely to want to snack on sugary or fatty foods during the day if they’ve had a filling breakfast.

  • Because breakfast is one of three main meals in the day, skipping it may increase the chances of not getting all the nutrients they need from their diet. They may be missing out on important vitamins and minerals as well as fibre.

  • It gets them into a good habit that hopefully, once established, will stay with them for life.

What they should be eating:

  • Aim for foods that will give them lots of energy, keep them full until morning tea time or even lunchtime, and contain lots of vitamins and minerals.

  • Foods high in fibre will not only keep hunger pangs at bay, but are good for digestion and regular bowels.

  • Steer clear of foods that contain lots of sugar, such as some cereals and spreads

Thinking outside the square:

It can be frustrating if your child refuses to eat traditional breakfast dishes like cereal or toast – or gets bored with them. But you don’t have to give them foods conventionally eaten first thing in the morning – serving up foods usually eaten at other times of the day is fine, as long as they’re healthy and will give them the energy and nutrients they need for the day. For example:

  • Add leftover veges to an omelette or frittata or dish them up on their own.

  • Serve hummus and tomato on crackers.

  • Make leftover rice into a rice pudding or add a few veges for a stir-fry.

  • Add tinned salmon or tuna to leftover mashed potato and make fishcakes. These can be made earlier and frozen, then defrosted in the microwave.

  • Make corn fritters and serve with bacon, ham or a tomato salsa.

Three great breakfast foods:

1. Porridge

This is one of the best breakfasts your kids can have – it’s full of fibre, and low-GI so they’ll digest it slowly and feel full for longer. oats are packed full of all sorts of nutrients, including selenium, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and iron.

oaking porridge with milk will contribute to calcium intake. However, getting children to eat porridge can be tricky. Make it more appealing by adding cinnamon, raisins or fruit (apple is great with cinnamon). Adding frozen berries may help – they will go all gooey and sweet when heated.

2. Eggs

They’re an excellent source of protein – in fact egg whites are the highest quality protein known. They also contain B6, B12, iron, phosphorus, selenium, riboflavin, folate and choline.

one of the best things about eggs is their versatility – you can boil, poach or scramble them, while omelettes can make a very filling and nutritious meal, especially if you add other ingredients like cheese, mushrooms, ham, capsicum and tomatoes.

3. Fruit

Giving your children fruit for breakfast contributes to their five-plus a day, and also supplies antioxidants and nutrients. Fruit and yoghurt is a good combo, or even try fruit with leftover custard. Keep canned fruit on hand for days when there’s no fresh fruit – choose fruit in natural juice rather than a sugary syrup.

Another option is to blend bananas or berries with some milk to create a smoothie. It’s quick and easy, and offering breakfast in drink form can be tempting to kids who don’t feel hungry first thing.

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