Breakfast is hailed as the most important meal of the day: It jump-starts the metabolism, reduces afternoon hunger cravings, and provides the energy necessary for a long day. Research shows that children who eat an early-morning meal have longer attention spans, are less frequently late to school, score better on standardized tests, and are less likely to be overweight later in life. But not all breakfasts are created equal, and the wrong morning meal choice can have the opposite effects to those listed above.
The traditional American breakfast is heavy in refined carbohydrates such as cereals, pancakes, bagels, and pastries. These foods are low in fiber and are quickly broken down by the body into sugar. This unimaginative interpretation of breakfast can be a hindrance when trying to get kids to eat a healthy first meal of the day. A food studies professor at New York University, Krishnendu Ray, says, “The idea that children have bland, sweet food is a very industrial presumption. In many parts of the world, breakfast is tepid, sour, fermented and savory.”
By those standards, not just any morning meal qualifies as a “true” breakfast. In order to tap into the benefits of your morning meal, it should consist of complex carbohydrates, fiber, natural sugars, and even some savory flavors. Fruit, oatmeal, whole-grain breads, sweet potatoes, avocados, and Greek yogurt are all fantastic, easy options for a quick morning meal or snack that will keep kids content until lunch. However, just as important as knowing which foods to eat is knowing which breakfast pitfalls to avoid; they’re not always so obvious.
Keep your kids healthy and full by avoiding these 10 typical breakfast foods.
A bagel scores very high on the glycemic index, meaning that the carbohydrates in a bagel are converted quickly into glucose and this results in a spike of blood sugar levels. Too much glucose in your bloodstream can lead to weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. Bagels are also usually topped with a rich layer of cream cheese, which only adds more unnecessary saturated fat. An English muffin topped with peanut butter is a much better alternative.
The breakfast sandwich seems like an unassuming, all-in-one morning meal, complete with bread, eggs, cheese, and meat, but it’s far from the best way to start your morning. The sandwiches don’t contain a lot of fiber and are heavy in salt, fat, and calories. Even though they’re convenient, try just scrambling an egg at home and slapping it on a slice of whole-wheat toast instead. This little alteration can save your child hundreds of calories.
Even when they’re absent of chocolate, a croissant is more dessert than breakfast. The croissant gets its signature flaky nature from a high butter to flour ratio. All this butter makes the croissant very high in saturated fat.
Eating one doughnut a day for a week can add an extra 1,500–2,000 calories, which translates to about an extra pound of fat to the body. Doughnuts are not a good choice for a child’s breakfast because they are filled with sugar and contain no fiber.