In this series, “Ask the RDs,” our team of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists answers questions about all things nutrition, food, meal planning and more.
Today, Jen answers: "How can my kids eat a healthier breakfast?"
School is back in session, and the breakfast battle has begun! Maybe you are one of the lucky few whose kids eat whatever is put in front of them with a smile and a "thank you." But chances are, you have at least one kid who makes the breakfast table a war zone. As a mom of three, I've had my fair share of breakfast battle wins and losses.
So, what can we do to encourage our kids to eat? And what foods should we strive for in providing a nutritious breakfast? I'll offer some simple suggestions!
3 solid strategies for helping kids eat:
- Offer options. Some kids just like variety and dislike eating the same thing every morning! Give them 2-3 options to pick from. Giving them some control over what they are eating may be the answer to getting them to eat it.
- Compromise. For the kid who just doesn't want to eat breakfast, you might need to set the bar low with expectations. Encourage a glass of milk or a piece of fruit to start. You can then slowly build up to a more balanced breakfast. You might also challenge them to eat a healthy breakfast on test days, game days, or even weekends. If you can get them into a routine of eating breakfast a few days throughout the week, you may be surprised to see them adding in other days, too.
- Before grocery shopping, let your kids plan meals with you. Ask them what fruits they want for breakfast. Do they want yogurt this week? Are they tired of peanut butter? Do they want to help make banana muffins to take on the way to school? This helps build excitement over next week's menu.
Now, here are some food groups to aim to include in your kids' breakfasts. We won't win the battle on these every single day, but consistency is key!
3 nutritious items to include:
- Protein. Foods rich in protein will keep your child feeling full longer. Protein-rich foods also help to sustain energy, preventing that mid-morning crash and keeping them alert and able to focus.
- Complex carbohydrates. Whole wheat toast, oats, and other complex carbs will help provide your kids with energy, fiber, and essential nutrients.
- Fruit or vegetables. Kids need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Use breakfast as an opportunity to get them started off right!
If all else fails…
Have a kid who doesn't like breakfast foods? Try offering a sandwich or wrap! Who says you can't do sandwiches for breakfast? A turkey and cheese sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly can be great, on-the-go breakfasts. For more meal tips, check out my 8 Nutritious Breakfast Ideas for Picky Kids.