If there was something you could do for your child that would boost his or her academic performance, improve their behavior and health, would you do it? Well there is, make sure your child has a nutritious breakfast to start the day. Research has shown that children who eat a healthy breakfast are less likely to be overweight, score better on academic tests, have fewer health issues, have better school attendance, and behave better in class. Breakfast literally means to break the fast, and our moms were right, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
National School Breakfast Week was created by the School Nutrition Association in an effort to raise awareness of the importance and the availability of school breakfast programs. This year National School Breakfast Week is March 2nd through March 6th. It’s the perfect time to focus on improving your child’s nutritional intake and helping your child make better choices. When children skip breakfast, their brains do not have the available fuel they need to function at the highest level. Skipping breakfast means that cognitive function is diminished and children have difficulty with concentration and learning.
School nutrition guidelines were developed by the federal government to meet specific nutritional requirements over the course of the school week. School offerings are required to meet less than 30 percent of the daily recommended calories from fat with less than 10 percent of those calories coming from saturated fat. Requirements are in place by age groups for caloric and protein intake, as well as for vitamins and minerals such as: Calcium, Iron, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. School nutrition programs work hard to offer foods that students will eat while balancing the nutritional requirements. When parents check the school breakfast or lunch menu, what at first glance might look like it is not the best nutritional choice may actually be a good choice. All dairy products offered are low fat; cereals offered are low sugar, and multi-grain breads and pasta products are served. Also canned fruit no or low added sugar, and low fat salad dressings are used. Fruits and vegetables are available daily on the offering bar. Norman’s child nutrition program is always looking for new healthy items to add to the breakfast and lunch menu.
Set a good example. Children of parents who eat breakfast are much more likely to be breakfast eaters themselves, so take time to eat breakfast yourself. What can you do if your child does not like to eat breakfast? Breakfast does not have to be limited to the traditional bacon and eggs, oatmeal, or cereal. Breakfast can be as simple as a piece of leftover veggie pizza, or a smoothie made with milk and fruit; or peanut butter and banana slices on toast or yogurt mixed with fresh fruit and topped with granola. Try having breakfast for lunch or dinner to help encourage your child to try new foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Oklahoma residents currently rank last in the United States for consumption of fruits and vegetables. The State Department of Health advises us all to: Move More, Eat Better, and be Tobacco Free.
This article is brought to you by the Healthy Community Coalition and written by Sharon Howard, RN MEd and Health Services Coordinator for Norman Public Schools. Healthy Community is a hospital and community based partnership that seeks to address four targets areas: tobacco use, hypertension, overweight/nutrition and lack of physical activity. Further information is available by calling 405-307-2146 or visit www.myhealthycommunity.com.