The 30-day Breakfast Challenge

The 30-day Breakfast Challenge

The Shame

I’ve been taking a lot of heat lately -- from my own parents, and my mother-in-law -- and the truth is, I deserve it. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that’s how I was raised (and both behavioral and cognitive studies on children agree!)... and yet...

Too many mornings we are racing to the car with a toaster waffle or granola bar in hand. Lunch, dinner, we have raised a beautifully balanced eater (throw a little sauce on his greens and he’ll down anything from broccoli to kale), but breakfast? Well, suffice it to say, we haven’t raised much of a breakfast eater, and both sets of grandparents have noticed.

The Importance of Breakfast

As I sat down to write some comments for the wonderful site SheKnows.com on healthy breakfast options today, I felt more than a little hypocritical, or in other words, pretty ashamed of myself. Breakfast eaters, on the whole, have been shown in studies to be more attentive, higher academic performers, more alert, and on the whole have an easier time both academically and behaviorally. Breakfast eaters also tend to be better eaters all day, able to control their blood sugar more steadily and thus avoid junk food binges later on in the day. Studies also show that what the child eats for breakfast also dramatically can heighten or lessen these benefits. While my son has never exhibited any trouble in school, I have to wonder, how much better could he be doing?

The Challenge

Starting this Monday, with my husband’s help, I’ll be feeding my son a well-balanced breakfast every day for 60 days. I’ll be reporting in each week on favorite recipes, and any changes I see. I’ll ask my son’s teachers to note any changes they see. I am excited to have anyone play along even for a few days, or a week. (and for those of you who already play this daily, I beg you for suggestions!) I’ll be posting breakfast recipes each week that are nutritionally sound AND pass the “I don’t cook in the morning and my son doesn’t eat” test -- in other words, it better be easy and delicious.

Breakfast Basics

As the challenge begins, let’s set the ground rules:

1. It has to be protein-carbohydrate balanced. The main thing to include in a balanced breakfast for kids is both complex carbohydrates and protein in equal caloric quantities. Certain amino acids found in protein, such as tyrosine are really important for the neurotransmitters in the brain to function optimally; complex carbohydrates help to usher those amino acids into the brain (without causing sugar rush). Protein is also extremely important for building muscle, while complex carbohydrates provide sustained energy to use those muscles -- in growing kids, both of these need to be addressed in equal measure.healthy breakfast

2. It has to be moderately light in calories. We want everyone to avoid feeling sluggish (which, as a side note, has always been my bone to pick with Grandma and Grandpa’s delicious breakfasts). I always like to include fruit since it is both light and filling. Fruit provides great vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. (I prefer this to fruit juice which is relatively high in sugar and without fiber).

3. It has to provide brain and brawn power. Back to #1, but with this caveat, not too many simple carbs or sugars. Since carbohydrates and sugar stimulate insulin production, and insulin helps tryptophan enter the brain (tryptophan is the stuff in turkey that makes us so tired after Thanksgiving, or after a glass of warm milk, for example) and tryptophan produces serotonin and serotonin causes a happy -- but quite sedative effect -- better to leave the carbs or dessert-type items for dinner or after dinner snack. Breakfast should also ideally be heavy on vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin C and Calcium, both power foods for optimal brain functioning.

4. They have to eat it.

5. Mama (aka me) has to wake up no more than a half hour early to prepare it... and that better include the time it takes for me to brew my green tea that will enable this experiment to go smoothly...

All right, here it goes.

Picture credit and great oatmeal recipe HERE.

Picture credit and great breakfast burrito recipe HERE.

 

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