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Do you make time for breakfast?  It can be a real challenge in this fast-paced life.  But, what happens in the middle of the morning when you have not had breakfast? How do you feel?  I know that I am not as alert as I should be.

If you have children who are starting to get ready for another school year don’t let them go to school hungry.  Start your school year routine out with a good breakfast or enroll your child in the school breakfast program.  A child without breakfast will not be able to concentrate.  Learning is interrupted until that child eats.  The bottom line is: “A hungry child cannot learn.”

If a child does not have good quality food during all periods of childhood, the cognitive development of that child is handicapped.  Not enough food, or poor quality food can cause children to have behavior, attention, and learning problems.  Poor nutrition impacts school performance and the overall development of a child.  Yet, this issue affects thousands of children each day.  Most importantly, it is so easy to prevent.

A balanced breakfast is needed including protein, complex carbohydrates and fat.  This involves choosing food from at least three food groups.  A child who eats a breakfast containing only juice and dry cereal without milk will run out of energy by mid-morning because the breakfast lacks protein and fat.  In addition to common breakfast choices such as cereal with milk and fruit, try incorporating non-traditional breakfast foods like cheese, crackers and grapes or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk.

Give both you and your children the advantage by starting the day with a good breakfast.

Author:  Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Ohio State University Extension.

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Never underestimate the power of a snack.  They have a major impact on a child’s diet.

Nutrition research supporting the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans is clear.  As Americans, we eat more calories than we need, without getting the needed nutrients. How does this happen? By eating foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. The Dietary Guidelines and ChooseMyPlate.gov recommend that we consume foods higher in nutrients and lower in calories.

Snacks are important. A recent dietary survey of infants and toddlers found that snacks provided 25 percent of the total calories consumed by one- and two-year-olds. Typical snacks included milk, crackers, cookies, chips and fruit drinks. The research shows a similar trend for older children and adolescents.

The recommendations from MyPlate are to make half the plate fruits and vegetables, one-fourth whole grains, one-fourth lean protein and serve low-fat dairy foods.  This is true for children and adults.  Snacks are a great way to get more of the nutrients we need for good health, without getting more calories than we need.

Improving snacks can help improve overall eating patterns. Here are some snack ideas for a healthier family:

  • Keep fruit on the table and carrot and celery sticks visible in the refrigerator.
  • Set a good example. When kids see you enjoy fruits, vegetables and whole grains, they will too.
  • For snacks on the go, try apples, raisins, grapes, carrots, sliced vegetables and dip made with low-fat yogurt.
  • Try whole wheat bread with peanut butter, whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese, or whole grain popcorn or cereal mixed with nuts or raisins.
  • Keep less chips, candy, cookies and soda around. Instead, provide healthier convenience foods like berries, yogurt, bananas, carrots, broccoli or graham crackers.

Are healthy snacks available at school? Do you know what choices your children have not only in the school lunch program, but also in vending machines at school?  Let your school administration, Parent Teacher Organization, or school board know that you are interested in the food choices available to your children.

Prioritizing your family’s health can be a challenge. Being aware of what your family is snacking on is an important step toward improved nutritional health.  For more nutrition information go online to ChooseMyPlate.gov

Author:  Linnette Goard, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

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