Breakfast is a learning experience

Eating Well

September 03, 1996|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When school bells ring, does the breakfast bell ring at your house, too?

Children who eat breakfast perform better in school due to increased problem-solving ability, and better memory, verbal fluency and creativity. They're also less likely to be absent, according to the American Dietetic Association's Child Nutrition and Health Campaign.

So how are your kids getting their learning advantage?

The ideal approach would be for the whole family to sit down together for 15 minutes and indulge in a three-food-groups meal. The meal could be simple:

A bowl of cereal with milk and fruit.

An English-muffin pizza.

Whole-grain toast with peanut butter and a glass of milk.

Toaster waffles with ricotta cheese and crushed pineapple.

Blender shake of nonfat yogurt and fresh fruit, topped with granola.

Toaster pastry, applesauce and a glass of milk.

Leftovers such as soup, pasta, chicken, baked potatoes, even cold pizza.

Cleaning up your own dishes is a great personal responsibility task to go along with breakfast. Each person could load dishes into the dishwasher or, simpler still, throw away their own paper plates and bowls.

But many family members sleep too late, don't sit down or leave at different times. These night-packed or instant-packed brown-bag breakfasts can meet nutritional needs of bus riders and car poolers, or even parents who eat at the office:

Cinnamon-raisin bagel with peanut butter and a carton of juice.

Rice pudding and a banana.

String cheese, pretzels and an apple.

Hard-boiled egg, rice cakes, chocolate milk.

Trail mix (nuts, seeds and dried fruit) and a carton of yogurt.

Bag of dry cereal, pudding cup, box of raisins.

Even easier, have your children participate in the school breakfast program if it's available. A recent survey of the nation's 100 largest school districts, conducted by Food Service Director says schools are serving more breakfast meals. Nationwide, the number of breakfasts served increased all over the country and made up 21 percent of all school meals served.

That's true in Baltimore, according to registered dietitian JoAnn Bell, staff specialist with food and nutrition services. Here, breakfasts rose from 14,167 in April of '95 to 15,291 in June of '96.

And school breakfasts are rising all across Maryland, according to Shelly Terry, chief of nutrition and transportation services for the Maryland Department of Education. Terry points out that in the past year, school enrollment has increased by 2 percent, and school breakfasts have kept pace.

School breakfasts are available at full price, reduced price or free, depending on family income. Everyone is welcome, and the meals are varied and well-planned with kids' preferences and nutritional needs in mind.

Whatever approach you take to getting your children to eat breakfast, apply it to yourself, as well. Few parents would attempt to do a full day's errands in a car with an empty gas tank, yet many spend the morning running their bodies on empty.

The American Dietetic Association is quick to point out that parents need to be role models for children, especially when it comes to eating breakfast. Your behavior reinforces the message that healthy eating is important. Work with your children to plan breakfasts they'll enjoy. Help them explore and discover new foods that taste good and are good for them.

The payoff is healthier children, healthier adults and better learning all around.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 9/03/96

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