Back to School: Nutritious Breakfasts and Snacks from Elizabeth Somer

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Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D., is author of several books, including her most recent book Eat Your Way to Sexy, as well as Age-Proof Your Body, Food & Mood, The Food & Mood Cookbook , and The Origin Diet. She is an Advisory Board member to Shape Magazine and Editor in Chief of Nutrition Alert, a newsletter that summarizes the current research from more than 6,000 journals. Ms. Somer is a frequent guest on NBC’s Today, former nutrition correspondent to ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Later Today, and she appears on other national TV shows such as The View and the Dr. Oz show, as well as monthly on AMNorthWest, the Portland, Oregon morning show. Her hour-long special on Age-Proof Your Body aired nationwide on Public Television in 2001.

Here’s some great  back to school breakfast advice  from Elizabeth:

If your child flunks a test, botches a project, forgets her backpack, or can’t lose weight, the reason could be what she ate or didn’t eat for breakfast.

One out of every four of our children skip breakfast daily and the numbers are increasing each year. 50% of us eat breakfast only on occasion. We skip breakfast because we want to lose weight, aren’t hungry, or because we complain that we don’t have enough time. Big mistake.

Why is breakfast so important? Granted, your child might feel fine at first, full of energy and raring to go for the first few hours after he/she wakes up. That counterfeit burst of energy comes from a mind and body revved from a good night’s sleep. However, your child will pay for the neglect later. In fact, by afternoon, even if children eat relatively good lunches in an effort to boost lagging energy levels, they never regain the energy they would have had if they’d taken five minutes to eat breakfast.

Children (and adults, too!) who eat breakfast think more clearly, remember more, are more creative, react quicker, make fewer mistakes, and have more energy than their breakfast-skipping friends. And, they are better nourished, healthier, less likely to battle depression or feel overwhelmed by stress and they consume less fat and more fiber than do breakfast skippers. Children who eat nutritious breakfasts also get more vitamins and minerals. For example, while up to 80% or more of girls don’t consume enough calcium, those that eat breakfast are the ones most likely to meet their daily quota for this bone-building mineral.

What’s even more ironic is that skipping breakfast in an effort to cut calories and lose weight backfires. People eat more, not less when they skip breakfast. It’s called the night eating syndrome. Where once a person starts to eat mid-day, he or she eats more food and calories between noon and bedtime than did someone who took a few minutes to eat in the morning.A study from Vanderbilt University in Nashville found that people who ate breakfast lost more weight than did breakfast skippers, even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories.

Of course, we are not talking a doughnut and soda here. Breakfast has a few rules:

Rule 1. Combine high-quality carbs with a little protein. The carbs provide the fuel your child’s brain needs to function and the protein helps your child feel full and energized longer. A rule of thumb is to include 2 fruits/vegetables like a glass of OJ and a banana, 1 protein like a glass of milk, a slice of low-fat cheese, yogurt, or an egg, with 1 to 3 carb-rich foods like cereal, toast, or waffles.

Rule 2. Watch out for the all-carb or high-sugar breakfasts. People sometimes complain that they’re hungry all day if they eat breakfast. This usually results from choosing the wrong foods. These breakfasts don’t provide the nutrients you need to kick-start your brain in the morning and they don’t stick with a child.

Rule 3. Time is no excuse. It takes only 5 minutes to eat well in the morning.

Breakfast Ideas:

Breakfast #1: Instant plain oatmeal cooked in low-fat milk. Oatmeal is rich in heart-healthy fiber. Cook it in milk instead of water to pack in more calcium. Add some dried fruit, brown sugar, and serve with a bowl of watermelon chunks.

Tip: I add 2 tbsp. of toasted wheat germ to the oatmeal, which gives children a hefty dose of vitamin E, trace minerals, and B vitamins. They don’t even know it’s there!

Tip: You can save even more time if you prepare hot cereal the night before: The night before, place dry cereal (quick cooking oats, wheatena, multi-grain cereals, etc) in a preheated, wide-mouth thermos. Add steaming milk and close tightly. The cereal will be ready and warm by morning. Serve with fresh fruit and orange juice.

Breakfast #2: Frozen whole wheat waffles. Top one or two with peanut butter and jelly for the little kids or with fat-free sour cream and fresh blueberries for teenagers. Serve with fresh fruit and low-fat milk. This breakfast tastes sinfully delicious, but is actually low in fat and high in nutrients.

Tip: Canned fruit, canned in it’s own juice is just about as good nutritionally as fresh fruit. So use this in a pinch.

Breakfast #3: Fruit parfait. Layer yogurt, low-fat granola, and fresh fruit in a parfait glass. Serve with OJ. Different, looks pretty, and both kids and adults love it.

Tip: Try calcium-fortified OJ to help meet your child’s calcium needs when they don’t drink their 4 glasses of milk every day.

Breakfast #4: Pancake wrap: Make extra pancakes on the weekend and freeze a few for during the week. Heat one of these pancakes in microwave for two minutes, fill with sliced banana, roll up and top with apricot sauce or preserves and put a dollop of light whipped cream on top. It looks like a dessert, but this breakfast is packed with vitamins, minerals, with the perfect mix of carbs and protein to fuel your child during the morning hours.

Tip: I use low-fat pancake mix and add some toasted wheat germ during preparation. I also make with nonfat milk.

Breakfast #5: If they won’t eat it, have them drink it. In a blender, add OJ concentrate, nonfat yogurt, a banana, canned apricots and a tbsp or two of toasted wheat germ.

Tip: Brown bag breakfast: You can drink this breakfast on the way to school.

Breakfast #6: Cantaloupe sundae: A 1 /2 cantaloupe filled with nonfat lemon yogurt and sprinkled with granola. This breakfast takes less than 5 minutes to make and is packed with antioxidants and calcium. It is a great breakfast for the child who says he’s not hungry, since it’s light and easy to eat.

Breakfast #7: Cinnamon-raisin bread dunked in low-fat cinnamon-apple yogurt. Serve with a large glass of 100% fruit juice. This breakfast is great for kids who like to eat with their fingers.

Breakfast #8: Pocket Breakfast: Scramble eggs with a little low-fat grated cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Fill a whole wheat pita bread with egg mixture. Serve with orange juice.

Tip: I sometimes also heat a veggie sausage in the microwave and crumble it into the eggs before serving. You also can wrap this mixture into a tortilla for a quick breakfast burrito.

Breakfast #9: On the road. Didn’t open the fridge before you bolted out the door? Then grab some fruit from home and pull up to a drive-through window for a healthy fast-food breakfast of McDonald’s Apple Bran Muffin, two pieces of fruit (brought from home), and a carton of low-fat milk.

Tip: Never leave the house without packing your briefcase, glove compartment, purse, or backpack with at least 3 or 4 pieces of fruit to get you through the day.


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