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Breakfast: Fast Prep, Lasting Effects
Research has proven many times over that the child who eats a nourishing breakfast before school is a better learner because he is fueled for the day. While prepackaged breakfast bars can be beneficial in an occasional pinch, the act of sitting down to a balanced breakfast will always be the best way to start any day, as the very act decreases stress.

That doesn’t mean you have to make an elaborate meal. A simple breakfast of cereal with fruit or juice is a fine way to start. Look for whole-grain cereals with sucrose sugar of less than 6 grams per ounce and at least 45 percent iron fortification. Make sure the juice is made from fruit and is not a fruit “drink.” Vitamin C in the fruit or juice helps the body absorb iron from the cereal and increases oxygen to the brain. If your child prefers dry cereal, offer a cup of milk, 2 percent or less, to provide calcium and protein.

Cheese and crackers with 100 percent juice is a healthy alternative breakfast. The protein in the cheese digests slowly, keeping your child alert until lunch. Serve 100 percent cheese, not cheese food product: real cheese is made from milk while cheese food product is made from oils.

Yogurt is a favorite for many children. Fruited yogurts are acceptable but plain yogurt with added fresh fruit is even better. Try stirring in some applesauce, blueberries or sliced bananas. A bowl of canned fruit in light syrup topped with vanilla yogurt and sprinkled with granola is almost like eating dessert!

Microwave instant oatmeal is a great breakfast in cold weather and can be ready in just a few minutes. Get a variety pack to start and have your child try all the flavors, switching to the favorites when you are ready to replenish your stock. Individually packaged oatmeal has a very long shelf life, so you don’t have to worry about it getting stale.

Wouldn’t any child like a milkshake for breakfast? Try ½-cup frozen vanilla yogurt, ½- cup lowfat milk, your child’s favorite fruit and blend until smooth. Pair it with a slice of whole grain toast or a bagel and you’ve produced a meal loaded with protein, calcium, fiber and vitamins!

Fiber is a very important part of overall health but is lacking in a refined diet. Whole grain cereals are finally becoming plentiful in most supermarkets, but how do we define “fiber rich”? Anything that contains 4 grams or more of fiber in a serving is good. Train yourself to look at the fiber content of all grain foods when reading labels.

Finally, some children just don’t like traditional breakfast foods in the morning, and that’s not a problem. What’s important is that your child doesn’t start the school day on an empty stomach. If he wants to eat a sandwich, let him do it. Then send him off to school knowing he is ready to learn.