In the morning bustle to get the kids — and parents —out the door, breakfast can often be overlooked.
But it really is the most important meal of the day, nutritionists say.
“You haven’t been eating all night. It’s not just a saying, it’s the truth. It affects thinking, mood, energy and how much your body is burning calories,” said Sheah Rarback, director of nutrition at the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Rarback and three other Miami dieticians offer these tips to make sure breakfast is part of your family’s daily routine:
• Set the table the previous night.
• Let the kids get dressed first so they have time to feel more hungry.
• If all you can get them to have is a glass of milk, that’s better than nothing because milk contains calcium and protein.
Here’s a daily menu planned out by the dieticians to guide you:
Sonia Angel, registered dietician and coordinator of the Diabetes and Nutrition Center at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, recommends a breakfast that’s no more than 500 calories.
• High fiber cereal (more than 5 grams of fiber per serving), and less than 10 grams of sugar per serving, with fruit and fat-free or 1 percent milk.
• A sandwich made with wholegrain bread, cheese, lean ham or turkey and a glass of milk.
Myerly Kertis, pediatric dietitian at Holtz Children’s Hospital at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center recommends some options that can be eaten on the go, such as yogurt or string cheese.
Erin Corrigan, a registered dietician at Miami Children’s Hospital, has some other suggestions.
“Low-fat Greek yogurt is great, it has about two to three times the protein of traditional yogurt,” she said. “It’s good to get the plain and mix with fruits such as berries or bananas, and you can add in any kind of cereal.”
But she warned not to add high-calorie items such as granola.
Then there’s the old American staple, the waffle.
“You can also do a wholegrain waffle – just pop it in the toaster – with apple sauce instead of syrup, or even with Greek yogurt and some fruit,” she said.
Instead of the tired old ham sandwich on white bread, Corrigan encourages parents to look for different ingredients that would make their kids’ lunches more palatable.
One example: Switch to bagel thins for making sandwiches instead of bread, which can get soggy.
“Lunch is a great time to have different types of proteins. Some suggestions include rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken breast, and hummus,” she said.
And when it comes to beverages, Corrigan suggests nixing the fruit juices and sports drinks that contain mainly empty calories and instead pack a liquid yogurt or encourage your child to buy milk at school.
Angel recommends keeping it even simpler: water.
Kertis has a few tips of her own to getting the kids to eat their lunches: “Get the kids involved – let them help shop at the stores. They are much more likely to eat things that they help pick out.”
Snack time is when the kids usually want to go for the junk food, but Kertis suggests you at least try to steer them in the right direction.
“Try to give them the fruits and vegetables first, but if they are really asking for the chips and the sweets, at least give them a healthier version, such as baked chips or animal crackers,’’ Kertis said.
For afternoon snacks, here are some of Kertis’ suggestions:
• Cottage cheese and fruits.
• Air-popped popcorn.
• Fruit kabobs.
• Baked chips.
• Pretzel sticks.
• Wholegrain crackers with peanut butter.
And eating healthy should not just be reserved for the child, as children observe their parents’ habits and mimic them. For example, if dad makes a face when broccoli is served, the child is most likely not going to be a fan either. So it’s important to have everyone on the same page.
“Everything in the house should be healthy – everyone should be eating healthy,” Kertis said.