Summer break is not only the time children break from school, but it may also be the time their healthy eating habits take a vacation as well. So, as summer comes to an end and the school year nears, take time to refocus your efforts as a family to ensure your children’s nutrition and physical activity habits are ready for the year ahead.
Breakfast is and has been called “the most important” meal of the day. So why is breakfast so important? Because children are still growing and a well-nourished child is child ready to learn! Studies show that breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, less tardiness and fewer hunger-induced stomach aches in the morning. Their overall test scores are higher; they concentrate better, solve problems more easily and have better muscle coordination.
Furthermore, children who eat breakfast are also less likely to be overweight and more likely to get enough calcium, too. So whether they eat at home or at school, be sure your children eat a nutritious breakfast every day.
Here are a few breakfast tips:
Start your child's day in a nutritious direction with a balanced breakfast that incorporates foods from the milk, grains, fruit and meat and beans groups. Quick and easy breakfast ideas include:
• Iron-fortified cereal and milk with banana slices
• Fruit such as bananas, strawberries or raisins and milk on instant oatmeal
• Lean ham on a toasted whole-wheat English muffin
Make these tasty, easy breakfasts even healthier by enjoying with a glass of low-fat milk or juice.
If you pack your children’s lunch, consider taking your children grocery shopping with you and allow them to pick out healthy foods that they enjoy. Your children are much more likely to eat what you pack for them if they have picked it out themselves. This is also an ideal opportunity to see what things they deem healthy and for you as a parent to make suggestions and corrections to their choices.
If your children are involved in after-school activities, pack a healthy snack they can eat beforehand. Fruit or vegetable slices, 100 percent fruit juice and whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese are healthy options that will give them the energy they need to make it to dinner.
Regular physical activity is also vital to your children’s development. Not all children like sports, but there are still plenty of ways they can get exercise on a daily basis at school and at home.
Here is a list of ways to be physically active for each age group:
• Preschoolers need play and exercise that helps them continue to develop important motor skills — kicking or throwing a ball, playing tag or follow the leader, hopping on one foot, riding a trike or bike with training wheels.
• School-age kids spending more time on sedentary pursuits like watching TV and playing computer games, the challenge for parents is to help them find physical activities they enjoy and feel successful doing. These can range from traditional sports like baseball and basketball to martial arts, biking, hiking, and playing outside.
• Teenagers: Teens have many choices when it comes to being active — from school sports to after-school interests, such as yoga or skateboarding.
Most importantly, talk to your children. Learn the foods they like. Teach them about the foods they need for their growing bodies. Find ways together to make sure they have the knowledge and ability to eat healthy and tasty foods at every meal. For more information about eating healthy or more recipes visit:
Quick Breakfast Taco
Active Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 15 minutes
2 corn tortillas
1 Tbs. salsa
2 Tbs. shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
1/2 C. liquid egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
Top tortillas with salsa and cheese. Heat in the microwave until the cheese is melted, about 30 seconds.
Meanwhile coat a small nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat; add egg substitute and cook, stirring, until the eggs are cooked through, about 90 seconds. Divide the scrambled egg between the tacos.
Nutrition, per serving: 153 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g mono); 3 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 17 g protein; 0 g fiber; 453 mg sodium; 207 mg potassium. Carbohydrate Servings: 1; Exchanges: 1 starch, 2 very lean meat
Active Time: 5 minutes Total Time: 5 minutes
1 square graham cracker, broken into 2 rectangles
1/2 tsp. Nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut spread, divided
2 slices banana, about 2 inches long
1/2 tsp. sweetened shredded coconut, toasted if desired, divided
Spread each graham cracker piece with 1/4 teaspoon Nutella and top with a slice of banana and a sprinkling of coconut.
Per serving: 71 calories; 2 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrates; 4 g added sugars; 1 g protein; 1 g fiber; 46 mg sodium; 94 mg potassium. Carbohydrate Servings: 1 Exchanges: 1 carbohydrate (other)
Contact the Cooperative Extension at 704-216-8970. Toi N. Degree, Family & Consumer Education Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension – Rowan County Center.