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How Eating Breakfast Makes Your Child Smarter

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  September 3, 2013 03:04 PM

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Photo Source:  Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
It’s common knowledge that kids should rise and dine to ace their academics. Research has shown that eating breakfast can improve a child’s cognitive performance in the classroom, particularly memory and attention span.  More interestingly, a study just published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, explains why and how a morning meal impacts the brain. 

According to the researchers in this study, children have a higher rate of metabolizing glucose in their brains as compared to adults. Glucose is the fuel that feeds the body. This higher rate of using glucose, coupled with their longer nighttime slumber, puts children at a higher risk for depleting their storage of glucose, called glycogen, in their body overnight.  Thus, eating breakfast, or “breaking the fast” so-to-speak, is physiologically important to provide children with the energy-charged glucose to kick start and fuel their brains.  According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), over 40 percent of American children do not eat breakfast on a daily basis.

As a parent, providing breakfast isn’t an issue.  Rather, it's coming up with breakfast ideas that kids will actually eat that is a hair-pulling challenge.  On this front, I solicited advice from my nutrition colleagues who are wizards when it comes to meal ideas. 

Here are their brain-fueling breakfast suggestions for kids of all ages, including you:
Denver Omelet in a Mug

Dave Grotto, RDN, busy author and father of two teenage girls, often has less than 5 minutes in the morning to prepare breakfast.  He relies on one of his favorite Hungry Girl quick recipes, Denver Omelet in a Mug to serve them a fast and satisfying breakfast.  Best of all, cleanup is a cinch.

As a mother of three and author of MyPlate for Moms, Elizabeth Ward, RDN, starts her family’s day with her most fave Pumpkin Smoothie.   Combine 1 cup each of low fat milk and canned pumpkin along with 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, a pinch ground cinnamon, and 2 ice cubes in a blender.   Serve with whole grain toast.   The beauty of this smoothie is that it provides a serving of veggies, which are often hard to squeeze in the AM.

Culinary nutritionist and author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes, Jackie Newgent, RDN, recommends starting the day off with her Banana-Nut Toastie. Spread a nut butter between 2 slices of whole grain bread.  Top one slice of bread with sliced bananas, a few dark chocolate chips, and an optional pinch of cinnamon or cayenne.   Cover with the other slice of bread and grill in a skillet or Panini press.  Who wouldn’t like a tad of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate to start their day?
Grab-and-Go Granola Bar

Need a healthy breakfast on-the-go?  Try this high fiber, easy-to-make Grab-and-Go Granola Bar created by Janice Newell Bissex, RD and Liz Weiss, RD, of Meal Makeover Moms.  This is just one of their many healthy recipes available on their new app for busy families.

Grilled Cheese French Toast is a household favorite for Elisa Zied, RD, author of Younger Next Week and mother of two hungry boys.  To make this cheese stuffed toast, sandwich a slice of Swiss or cheddar cheese in between two slices of whole wheat bread.  Dip the sandwich in a scrambled egg and brown in a fry pan coated with nonstick cooking spray.   Served with fruit and nonfat milk.

According to Keri Gans, RDN, author of The Small Change Diet, “A homemade Yogurt Parfait could be the perfect breakfast option for the busy family, especially with varied taste buds.  Each family member can create their own parfait by choosing a cup of low-fat Greek yogurt topped with a high-fiber cereal, fresh fruit, and a sprinkle of nuts.”  Set up a breakfast bar in the kitchen and let them do the assembling.  Defrosted frozen berries are an easy way to keep fruit on hand should you run out of fresh during the week.

Lastly, Karen Ansel, RDN, a mother and media spokesperson for AND, suggests a Hummus Breakfast Bagel.  Spread hummus on half of a whole wheat bagel and top with tomato slices. “By using hummus instead of cream cheese, you can work in protein and healthy fat, ” claims Ansel.  Consuming both protein and fat at breakfast will help keep you and your kids full until lunch.

Please share you breakfast favorites below.

Here’s to a productive school year!

                                              Follow Joan on Twitter at: joansalgeblake

If you have a nutrition topic that you would like covered in my blog, please email me at:
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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