By Hansa Bhargava, MD
This morning as I was rushing around to get ready for work and getting the kids ready for camp, my daughter asked: “Do I have to eat breakfast? Can’t I just skip it today?”
As a working mom of twins, l confess that the thought of skipping breakfast to make the morning easier has crossed my mind. But as a pediatrician, I know that breakfast really does make a difference.
So yesterday, when I sat at the White House roundtable discussion with the first lady about the School Meal Program, I was not surprised when the topic of breakfast came up. Mrs. Obama admitted she didn’t realize the importance of breakfast until she became a mom, when she spoke to her pediatrician. James M. Perrin, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, talked about the importance of healthy meals to the brain, as well as the importance of fueling the brain first thing in the morning. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 not only provides qualified children with a healthy lunch (according to the standards set by the USDA), but also breakfast.
Most research shows that the school breakfasts have made a difference. Sam Kass, former White House chef and executive director of Let’s Move, reported that test scores are up in schools participating in the healthy meals program. Although a recent study had mixed results on the importance of breakfast, most experts support the idea that good food in the morning helps kids’ brains work better. As a pediatrician, I fully believe that giving your kids a meal with protein and healthy carbs will sustain their energy and help them concentrate.
And as a mom of two 8-year-olds, I absolutely understand the obstacles that stand in the way as you try to get the kids ready, prepare school lunches, get yourself ready, and head out the door. Here are a few tricks that I’ve used to make it easier:
1. Stock up your pantry and refrigerator. Keep protein bars, yogurt, hard boiled eggs, and cheese sticks handy. Any of these with an apple or banana make a great grab-and-go breakfast.
2. Do some work the night before. I will often put 2 days’ worth of sandwiches in the fridge along with cut-up veggies in plastic bags.
3. Have healthy cereal options available at your fingertips. This is an easy go-to for older kids. If you have fresh blueberries in the fridge, throw a handful in their cereal along with low-fat milk.
4. Give them a glass of milk to chug down and bring a granola bar and a piece of fruit to eat in the car.
That old saying about breakfast being the most important meal of the day is true. Let’s make it happen for our kids so that they can do better at tests, at soccer games, and most importantly, at life.