Back to school: The Breakfast Edition

You know it’s the most important meal of the day, but here’s how to balance it and fit it in — daily 

BY ALETHEA PRICE

School starts next week … 

Parents, in addition to all the school supply and school clothes shopping you’re trying to get done this week don’t forget to think about meal planning. You’re busy, kids are busy, why not make the morning rush a little less rushed by planning out some healthy breakfast options in advance? The best part is that you can involve the whole family.

We all have busy schedules that tend to get even busier this time of year, but that doesn’t mean we should skip out on the most classic form of time spent with the family. Family mealtime is much more than just eating together. It sets us up for success in so many wonderful ways.

The first topic on our agenda is breakfast. Excuse me for sounding a bit like a broken record but I’m going to just come right out and say it: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. 

I’d never lie to you. I mean really, is there a better way to start the day than with bacon? Let me explain. A balanced breakfast sets the standard for your whole day. Your body needs fuel to function so you want to put good stuff in so you can get good stuff out. A balanced breakfast should consist of a carbohydrate, a protein, and a fat. This balance of nutrients helps your brain function at optimal levels.

Have you ever experienced a mid-morning energy crash? This could be a range of symptoms from headaches and dizziness to irritability and fatigue. If so, think back to your breakfast that day, what did you have? Did you have something higher in carbs? Did you even eat breakfast at all? The mid-morning crash is a perfect indicator of a breakfast fail. A breakfast high in carbs quickly converts to sugar causing a spike in energy followed by a dramatic decline. Starting the day with a balanced meal gives your body an even amount of energy resulting in a more productive day. Let’s hear it for productivity!

The type of carbs you choose can help prevent a crash from happening. Whole grains are broken down more slowly causing a more even release of energy. This helps with regulation of blood glucose in the body. Whole grains are also high in fiber so they help you feel fuller longer. There’s nothing worse than being interrupted in a 10 o’clock meeting by awkward stomach grumbles because that toaster pastry didn’t get the job done. Oatmeal, whole grain toast, and whole grain cereals are great foods to power you through your morning. If you absolutely must turn to convenience foods for breakfast, keep these tips in mind. Choose foods made with whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy.

Both kids and adults can benefit from eating a balanced breakfast. Kids who eat breakfast have been shown to learn better and retain more knowledge. They are able to focus more and are more apt to participate in class. Busy mornings can prevent breakfast from being the priority it should be. The best tip for getting breakfast more often is to have grab and go options available. Now this is not a free pass to go stock up on bulk boxes of pop tarts and toaster pastries. Remember, a balanced breakfast is the ticket. Try making homemade frozen breakfast sandwiches on whole grain English muffins. These can easily be made in advance, and wrapped individually for easy access. These are quick and easy to heat in the microwave before heading out the door. Other breakfast foods that can easily be frozen and microwaved include whole wheat waffles or pancakes and breakfast burritos.

Some other grab and go options that have no assembly required include low-fat dairy products such as yogurt and cheese. These foods contain protein which keeps you full like fiber does. Make healthy dairy choices by choosing low-fat products with little to no added sugars. Remember, lots of sugar can cause a mid-morning crash. Greek yogurt is very versatile in ways to serve it while packing a high protein punch. Peanut butter is another source of protein and also heart healthy fat. Two tablespoons of this spread can be a delicious addition to whole grain waffles or toast, added to oatmeal or even your favorite smoothie recipe. You can substitute for other nut butters if necessary. Double check that label on hazelnut spread, it’s not quite as healthy as you may think. It may be the most delicious invention this world has ever seen but it can be a little calorie dense. That’s why I always recommend eating things in moderation.

When possible, make time to have breakfast together as a family. Mealtimes can be opportunities to interact with each other before the day gets too hectic. It’s so important to make eating breakfast a healthy habit for the young folks in our lives to latch onto. Set yourself and your whole family up for success by providing them with a healthy, balanced breakfast each day.

What a way to start the day. Having a balanced breakfast motivates you to make healthier choices all day long.

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at a.price@uky.edu.