Now that summer vacation has come to a close, getting your kids back into a morning routine can be difficult. It might be hard enough just to get them out of bed and get their teeth brushed before school, but a healthier breakfast will kick start their learning. Jamie Feit, M.S., is a registered dietician and owner of Jamie Feit Nutrition, LLC. In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Feit tells us how a low-glycemic breakfast can help kids stay focused and maintain their energy until the lunch bell rings.
"Remember starting [the] morning off with a good breakfast and planning healthy snacks throughout the day will keep [your kids] energized and focused for the school year," Feit says. A healthy breakfast will also help in controlling weight. She says these breakfasts don't need to be complicated but should include protein, fiber, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrates. Here are some quick and easy ways to get started.
Many processed cereals are high in sugar and can spike blood sugar, followed by a crash a few hours later (via Healthline). "Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly within 15 minutes to ½ hour," Feit says. "Fruit juice, milk, all types of sugar, honey, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and even fruit are simple carbohydrates." That means a breakfast habit of a bowl of sugary cereal might only sustain your child through homeroom and the first class. Feit recommends a whole-grain English muffin with two tablespoons of peanut butter as an easy way to get complex carbohydrates, which take longer to digest. Some other options for complex carbohydrates are starchy vegetables, oats, rice, and quinoa suggests Feit.
Carbohydrates are also best for boosting brain power, according to the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in complex carbohydrates steadily fuel the brain during the long morning hours.
Adding fiber to your child's breakfast can stave off hunger explains Feit. According to a 2015 study in the Journal of Nutrition, dietary fiber can even contribute to better cognition in children. The two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble — can be found in plant products. "Insoluble fiber does not absorb water and keeps your body healthy by moving everything through the gastrointestinal tract," adds Feit. "Soluble fiber absorbs water and causes a feeling of fullness."
A whole-wheat waffle with nuts, berries, and ricotta cheese adds fiber from both the waffle and berries. Feit notes that fiber helps lower cholesterol because it binds to the cholesterol and shuttles it out of the body. "Fiber is also important for gut health, as it is the food for the good bacteria in the gut," Feit says. "Consuming a high fiber breakfast will keep the kids full for the morning as well as supply them with a happy gut."
Feit recommends adding a small amount of healthy fat to your child's breakfast each morning. "Fats have been vilified for a long time but not all fats are created equal," according to Feit. "They do provide double the amount of calories as carbohydrates and protein so they are a good source of energy." Feit suggests a slice of whole-grain bread with avocado and tomato to get both healthy fat and fiber. Avocados, olive oil, nuts, and olives are foods that have heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Therefore, Feit suggests including more of these monounsaturated fats in the diet to protect the heart and cholesterol levels. Fats can also take up to six hours to digest, making it a great breakfast choice to last until lunch.
However, you'll want to avoid or limit other types of fats. "Trans fats are absolutely dangerous and can cause harm to the body by raising LDL cholesterol, they are found mostly in processed foods," explains Feit. "The research on saturated fats is still out and controversial so best to consume those in moderation. Polyunsaturated fats also should be consumed in moderation as they can add too much omega 6 fatty acids to the body."
Protein will also keep your child feeling full throughout the morning, according to Feit. She suggests a vegetable omelet cup with a piece of fruit. "Combining protein with fruit will not only provide fullness and blood sugar control but will also delay the absorption of simple carbohydrate in the fruit," explains Feit. Protein also can help a growing child build muscles and recover, and repair cells.
"I hope you can see now that by choosing any of these breakfast choices, you are helping your child to feel good, have energy, sustain their focus in school, keep blood sugars stable and avoid the crash of energy that happens when consuming a typical American breakfast consisting of processed food and simple carbohydrate breakfast," says Feit.
You can find out more about healthy eating at Feit's website, www.jamiefeitnutrition.com, or connect with her at Jamie@jamiefeitnutrition.com. You can also find her on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook.