Olivia Kelly, MINDI, Community Dietitian
Living with lockdown brings huge challenges to parents, the realities of working from home, managing home schooling and trying to keep children active can leave us tearing our hair out.
While establishing a good breakfast routine won’t solve all our problems, starting the day with the right nutritional route can certainly make the rest of the day a little easier on our much loved little ones.
Eating a good breakfast in the morning helps young bodies break down glucose which is an important energy source. Research has shown that eating fruit, grains and good quality protein within a couple of hours of waking up helps to avoid glucose fluctuations throughout the day. Glucose fluctuations can cause mood swings, hyperactivity and poor concentration in our little darlings and stress in adults, a combination best avoided in lockdown.
A healthy breakfast also jump starts your metabolism; a good metabolism means kids burn calories well throughout the rest of the day. Studies show that people who skip breakfast can have a sluggish metabolism causing them to gain extra weight leading to a viscous circle low activity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease in later life.
So what constitutes a good breakfast?
Breakfast cereals are an important part of Irish breakfasts and the milk helps contribute to the calcium and Vit D intake for growing children.
Aim for the Top 3
The three healthiest cereals are porridge, wheat biscuits and shredded wheat because they are high in fibre and low in sugar and salt. These cereals contain only 0.5 teaspoon of sugar per serving and provide a slow and steady release of energy throughout the morning thereby helping with concentration and homeschooling.
If you are finding it hard to switch your children to the healthier cereals at the start allow them to have their sugary cereals on weekends only and wean them off that way.
Open A Juice Bar!
While this is probably not something that can be done everyday it can be a great time for the kids to set up their own breakfast juice bar. Getting our children to help make freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice in the morning is a great way for them to learn all about the benefits of fruit and vitamin C. Impress your children by telling them that one orange contains over two hundred disease fighting chemicals or antioxidants.
Make Any Day Pancake Tuesday
Eggs are also a very versatile nutritious food and are a great source of protein, iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin A and many other nutrients such as choline which is involved in learning and memory.
Homemade pancakes made with plain flour, eggs, low fat milk and topped off with some fruit or berries tick all the boxes and make a nutritious and tasty breakfast. Mix the ingredients together until the mixture holds the figure of eight on the surface.
Healthy toppings for pancakes could be chopped up berries or lemon juice and a small sprinkle of sugar.
Them Bones Need Calcium
The most common breakfast in Ireland is cereal and cold milk, milk is a vital source of calcium which is especially important for our growing teenagers who are reaching their peak bone mass during adolescence. Children and teenagers between the ages of 9 and 18 should aim for 1300mg of calcium per day which is equivalent to four servings.
In Ireland because we don’t get a lot of good quality sunlight to convert Vit D to active form in our bodies it would be advisable to choose low fat Vit D fortified milk. Remember teenagers with growing bodies need more sleep so we can allow them to breakfast a little later than usual these days.
We can make breakfast a little more interesting by thinking outside the box and trying some alterative healthy breakfasts. French toast on brown bread is a tasty way of including eggs in our diet and getting some early morning fibre or try some brown toast with peanut butter and sliced banana, a tasty and good source of protein, energy and healthy fats.
Finally, always try to sit at the kitchen table and be good role models for our children and young adults. Children will learn by example and this can also be a way of combating fussy eating as the more children are exposed to the sight, smell and touch of different foods the less likely they are to be fussy eaters.