Youth should start day with a good breakfast

Success in school starts with good nutrition at home, said LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. And that means a healthful breakfast, lunch and after-school snacks.

“Breakfast is your body’s morning refueling stop,” Reames said. “Research shows that breakfast eaters have better school attendance and less tardiness. They have fewer hunger-induced stomachaches or headaches.”

Breakfast also helps students concentrate better, solve problems more easily, and have better muscle control, according to Reames.

Also, kids who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight. Skipping breakfast can lead to overeating during the day, she said.

Stock the kitchen with easy to prepare breakfast items so lack of time is not an excuse to forgo the morning meal, Reams recommended.

“A nutritious breakfast pattern might include fruit and 100 percent fruit juice with fortified cereal and top that with fat-free or low-fat milk, perhaps a slice of toast,” she said.

Items such as instant oatmeal, small bagels, whole grain toast or waffles and yogurt also are an option.

Children can also take advantage of their school breakfast program, if they have one.

“School breakfast programs increase the chances that boys and girls will eat breakfast,” Reames said.

To keep them energized, students need a healthful lunch. If packing your child’s lunch, make sure to follow food safety guidelines.

“It’s important to start with a clean work surface and hands, and pack to avoid foodborne illness,” she said.

Keep foods at the proper temperature. For cold foods, she recommends packing an ice source such as a small frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box with the lunch to keep the food safe to eat. Pack soups or chili in a thermos.

A good lunch would include a protein, fruits and vegetables, whole-grain bread or crackers and a dairy product.

Because children are usually hungry when they come home from school, Reames said to offer snacks that help children maintain a healthy weight and meet their nutritional requirements. Unplanned and random snacking can lead to eating problems.

“Nonstop snacking can interfere with the child’s appetite and disrupt their cycle to feel hunger and fullness,” Reames said.

Once school starts and children are involved in after-school activities, getting dinner on the table each night can be difficult. Planning meals for the week and doing a weekly shopping trip, which can save time and money, she recommends.

Using a slow cooker also can save time and doesn’t heat up the kitchen.

“Cooking dinner at home ensures families eat nutritious and healthful meals and give families an opportunity spend time together,” said Reames.

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