Eating a Healthy Breakfast is Connected to Good Academic Performance

The beginning of a new school year is always challenging for parents and children.  We parents usually have different concerns than our children as we center our attention on how to assist them with doing well in all aspects of school.  Yet, we share with them the goal of good academic performance.  Science has shown that a child who starts the day with a good breakfast is already leaps ahead in performing well in school.

According to an online article on the website for the National Center for Biotechnical Information/National Institutes of Health, the importance of a healthy breakfast cannot be overstated yet it is the most frequently skipped meal, with 20% to 30% of children skipping it.

Studies “generally demonstrate that eating breakfast has a positive effect on children's cognitive performance, particularly in the domains of memory and attention.” Children who eat breakfast have an increase in cognitive performance, meaning an increase in attention skills so that they can perform their lessons well. This also translates to an ability to attend school regularly and remember information that is taught.  Additionally, their behavior in class is dramatically affected because they can concentrate better and perform the necessary tasks.

It is important for us to understand that children’s brains are developing and are different than those of adults.  The article points out that children have a higher brain glucose metabolism than adults.  “To maintain this higher metabolic rate, a continuous supply of energy derived from glucose is needed, hence breakfast consumption may be vital in providing adequate energy for the morning.”

Not only does breakfast assist a child academically, but it also helps the child to maintain proper body weight.  Children who skip are more likely to be overweight and not eat healthy snacks or satisfy the recommended daily vegetable and fruit intake.  Not surprising is the connection between skipping breakfast and “risky behaviors” such as smoking and experimenting with alcohol and drugs.

Plan for healthy breakfasts ahead of time.  Make them easy and fun.  There are plenty of books and online articles with suggested recipes.  Give your children the important start for their school day and help them reach their goals of academic success.

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Tweak Family Recipes to Make Them Healthier

Many of us have family recipes from grandparents, uncles, aunts or other relatives that have become family traditions.  Unfortunately, most are filled with unhealthy ingredients – lots of oil, butter or sugar, just to name a few.  Preserving these recipes are, nevertheless, important for us as part of our family heritage.  I have written before about having children assist with cooking meals to encourage more family bonding time and as well as for them to read more as they learn to follow written recipes.  Today, I would like to discuss teaching your children healthier options for recipes as part of your family cooking experiences.

On his website, Dr. Joseph Galati, founder of Your Health First Education, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to provide education and support to the public about nutrition, has an article Tweaking Grandma’s Recipes: Healthy Substitutes, which has many suggestions for substitutions.  For butter, oil and margarine in recipes that involve baking, he recommends using applesauce or mashed fruit. For frying, grilling or sautéing, he recommends substituting one-half with olive oil or coconut oil.  For regular sugar, try substituting one-half with locally sourced honey.  For brown sugar, he suggests adding 1 tablespoon of maple syrup to the honey.  For mayonnaise in recipes, substitute plain yogurt.  On a sandwich, try pesto or drizzles of olive oil.  Dr. Galati has many more recommendations and I encourage you to read his entire article.

Traditional family meals bring families together to continue bonding and building life-long friendships.  Substituting more healthy ingredients will keep these traditions alive and be teachable moments for your children.  

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