Breakfast basics

Knoxville (WVLT) - You probably heard it from your own parents: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But now you're the one saying it, to your sleepy, frazzled, grumpy children, who insist "I'm not hungry" as you try to get everyone fed and moving in the morning. It can be tough to get your children fueled UP in time for school, childcare or a day of play, but it's important to try.

Skipping breakfast can make children tired, restless or irritable. As children wake UP, their bodies need to refuel for the day ahead after going without food for 8-12 hours during sleep. Their mood and energy can drop by midmorning if they don't eat at least a small morning meal.

Breakfast also can help keep children's weight in check. Breakfast kick-starts the body's metabolism, the process by which the body converts the fuel in food to energy. And when the metabolism gets moving, the body starts burning calories. Children who eat breakfast fill UP with fiber, calcium, protein and other important nutrients. They also tend to have lower blood cholesterol levels and fewer absences from school, learn more easily, and make fewer trips to the school nurse with stomach complaints related to hunger.

Shoney's of Knoxville and East Tennessee Children's Hospital continually partner on community service projects and initiatives that target East Tennessee children and their families. This relationship began with the co-sponsored Eating and Living Healthy program, which provides curriculum to area classrooms as well as presence at area events. This year, Shoney's and Children's Hospital are encouraging families to enjoy a healthy breakfast each day.

Here are some practical suggestions from Shoney's and Children's Hospital to ensure that children get a good breakfast before they are out the door:

Stock UP: Stock your kitchen with healthy breakfast options; prepare as much as you can the night before (get dishes and utensils ready, cut up pieces of fruit, etc.)
Wake UP: Get everyone up 10 minutes earlier to allow time to eat
Gear UP: Have healthy grab-and-go alternatives (fresh fruit, individual boxes of cereal, yogurt or smoothies, trail-mix) on days when there is little time to eat

You may also want to check out the breakfasts offered at your child's school or day care. Some offer breakfasts and provide them at free or reduced prices for families with limited incomes. If your child eats breakfast outside the home, talk with him or her about how to make healthy selections. The morning meal does not have to be traditional. Feel free to mix UP different foods, even the leftovers from last night's dinner, as long as the food provides the nutrients and energy children need for the day.

Try to serve UP a balanced breakfast that included some carbohydrates, protein and fiber. Carbohydrates are a good source of immediate energy for the body. Energy from protein tends to kick in after the carbs are used up. Fiber helps provide a feeling of fullness and, therefore, discourages overeating. When combined with adequate liquid consumption, fiber helps move food through the digestive system, preventing constipation and lowering cholesterol. Good sources of these nutrients include:

Carbohydrates: whole-grain cereals, whole-grain breads and muffins, fruits and vegetables
Protein: low-fat or nonfat dairy products, lean meats, eggs, nuts (including nut butters), seeds and cooked dried beans
Fiber: whole-grain breads, waffles and cereals; bran and other grains; fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts

And don't forget to meet UP at the breakfast table—whether it's at a local restaurant like Shoney's or in your own home. Let your child see you making time to enjoy breakfast every day. Even if you just wash down some whole-wheat toast and a banana with a glass of juice or milk, you're showing how important it is to face the day after refueling your brain and body with a health morning meal.

For more information on the importance of breakfast, call Children's Hospital at (865) 541-8262 click on the links below.

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