We’ve heard it since we were kids and likely tell our own children the same: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Yet, in a cereal-dominated breakfast world, it is easy for our kids to fall into a rut of eating the same processed, nutrient depleted (non) foods for breakfast everyday before school. The convenience and popularity of those colorful boxes of cereal are hard to top, yet there is unseen cost to our kids’ bodies that may affect their capacity for focus and learning throughout the school day. Knowing why breakfast is, in fact, the most important meal of the day, and knowing what foods best fuel the body and mind will help us set up our kids for success at the onset of each day.
What's the big deal about breakfast?
Breakfast (the time at which we break our fast) is the most important meal of the day because it sets the pace for how our blood sugar fluctuates throughout the entire day. Food is the body’s fuel. Eating well equips our children with adequate and balanced blood sugar. When a car runs out of fuel it will just stop, but if your body runs out of fuel (blood sugar) it will break down muscle, organ and bone tissue to keep itself going. Understanding the role of blood sugar and the importance of steady blood sugar balancing can best support the way we make food choices and provide a healthy start to our kiddos day.
Unfortunately, many of our most common breakfast food items can wreak havoc on our bodies’ blood sugar balance. Foods like oatmeal, cereal, cereal bars, toast, bagels, walffles, muffins and donuts are high glycemic carbohydrates that rapidly convert to sugar, causing glucose levels to rise in the blood. As blood sugar rises, the pancreas produces insulin, prompting cells to absorb blood sugar resulting in low blood sugar. The faster a food converts to sugar, the more insulin the body makes and the harder it is to keep blood sugar balanced. The moment blood sugar drops below a certain point, we lose the fuel that supplies our brain and other organs, often causing headaches, brain fog, nervousness, and inability to think clearly. Whew! It’s a hormonal roller coaster.
How do we maintain balance?
Maintaining blood sugar is primarily based on the balance of insulin and glucagon (I like to call this hormone “SUPER G”). Insulin is produced in response to eating carbohydrates and SUPER G is produced in response to eating protein. SUPER G’s job is to counter insulin and help maintain healthy blood sugar balance. SUPER G needs protein to create the best possible outcomes for energy, creativity, critical clear-minded thinking and so much more.
If we want to support SUPER G (and help our body maintain balance of bloog sugar), it means starting the day without breads, cereals, donuts, pancakes, waffles, etc. These foods are highest on the glycemic index and often void of true nutritional value. Feeding our kids real food with the proper combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat with each meal at the right time can help stabilize blood sugar and set them up for scuess.
What are creative and attractive ways to get kids out of a cereal rut?
While it may be difficult to get out of a cereal rut, there are lots of creative, balanced alternatives that may entice your child.
Smoothies are a great way to incorporate low glycemic foods into one delicious drink that can be taken on-the-go if needed.
There are many delicious low glycemic fruit, including cherries, plums, grapefruit, peaches, apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, kiwis and grapes. Consider the following ideas:
- Two scrambled eggs with tomato and avocado slices
- Icelandic Style plain yogurt yields the best carbohydrate to protein balance with no added sugars, top with blueberries and sliced almonds (healthy fats slow down the entry rate of sugar into the blood stream)
- Two soft-boiled eggs sliced down the middle with a colorful portion strawberries and blackberries
- Pineapple coconut milk smoothie (toss in a handful of spinach or kale to kick it up a notch!) with two to three chicken sausage breakfast patties on the side
- Applegate farms savory turkey sausage breakfast links and a grapefruit half topped with cherries
If your child seems reluctant to changing things up in the breakfast department, try getting them involved in the process. Teach them how to scramble eggs and make smoothies. Shop the produce section together and ask them what fruits and vegetables appeal to them, “Have you every tried dragon fruit? No? Me either lets get adventurous and try one!” Plant container gardens and have your kiddos water and care for the herbs, fruits and vegetables of there choice. This helps establish a healthy connection and love of whole foods and the life force God designed them to provide us with.