6 Brain Boosters Your Kid's Breakfast Might Be Missing

girl eating breakfast

Gone are the days when a bowl of sugary cereal passed muster for a healthy, nutritionally sound breakfast for kids. Sure, it's still something that's easy enough to reach for, but if you want to be sure your kids stay satisfied and focused through the school day, it's best to make sure their breakfast is nutritionally balanced.


Here's what nutrition experts say your kid's breakfast should include. Thankfully, making sure this first meal of the day is healthy and satisfying doesn't have to be hard work at all!

1. Protein. It's not just for your post-workout shakes. And it's something that's often woefully lacking from kids' carb-heavy breakfasts. "Protein keeps kids satisfied longer, which minimizes those mid-morning energy crashes and hunger pangs," explains internist Rachita Reddy, MD, MPH. Dr. Reddy recommends aiming for a meal that has 4 to 10 grams of protein, like a veggie omelet or a Greek yogurt parfait (two parts plain Greek yogurt plus one part low-fat fruit yogurt, topped with berries, cinnamon, slivered almonds, or chia seeds).

2. Complex carbohydrates that are loaded with fiber. Carbs are essential for energy, but not just any carbohydrate will do, says nutritionist Sarah Pflugradt, RDN. "Aim for nutrient-rich carbs such as whole wheat bread, oats, and fruit."

Ideally, the carbs your kids are chowing down on will have up to six grams of fiber per serving. "Fiber slows digestion, which keeps a steady level of energy throughout the morning," Dr. Reddy notes. Fiber with breakfast can prevent a sugar rush followed by an energy crash, which typically comes with sweet breakfast choices, like sugary cereal. "[Fiber] is important for gut health, as it prevents constipation and reduces the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol," she says.

3. Healthy fats. While you don't want to go crazy with breakfast foods that are high in saturated fats, kids will benefit from good-for-you, polyunsaturated (PUFAs) or monounsaturated fats (MUFAs). "Healthy fats give kids an energy boost and feed the brain," says Dr. Reddy.

MUFAs, which are anti-inflammatory fats that are high in antioxidants, can be found in avocados, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. PUFAs include omega-3 fatty acids. "Omega-3s aid in normal growth and brain development," Dr. Reddy notes. "Good sources of omega-3s are walnuts, seafood, chia, and flaxseeds." 

More from CafeMom: 8 Delicious Kid Meals Created By Moms (Who Are Also Nutritionists!)

4. Phytonutrients. The more colorful the fruits and veggies on your kid's plate, the better. That's because vibrant whole foods boast tons of phytonutrients, which fight off disease and improve cellular function which leads to healthier tissues and organs and a stronger immune system. "Choose a different colored fruit each morning to decorate their plate: blueberries, oranges, bananas, strawberries," advises Dr. Reddy. "You can add them to a smoothie or top them on oatmeal or a parfait."

5. The ABCDs. As in all of those vitamins. Sure, it sounds intimidating, but there are lots of easy ways to sneak these in. "Vitamin A is found in milk, cheese, and eggs and helps to promote normal growth and development," explains Keri Glassman, RD CDN. "B vitamins help with energy and metabolism and can be found in nuts, eggs, and milk. Vitamin C helps build healthy muscles and can be found in citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits and vegetables like broccoli rabe and peppers. Vitamin D is known to help the body absorb calcium and promotes bone formation and [is] found in salmon and milk." D is also found orange juice and non-dairy milk, and just one egg yolk provides about 40 IU of vitamin D.

6. Calcium. Milk has been a breakfast staple for years for a reason. "It helps to build bones, especially important as your child grows," Glassman explains. "It can be found in cheese and yogurt." If you would prefer to get it from non-dairy sources, you can serve calcium-fortified almond milk, which has about the same amount -- or sometimes even more -- of the nutrient as cow milk.


Image via iStock.com/shironosov

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