When spending time in my kid’s schools, some of the challenges that children and teachers face are obvious: bodies that can’t sit still, bounding energy that can’t be managed, sleepy heads struggling to stay awake, eyes moving unable to remain focused on the topic at hand. This is not only a challenge for the teacher, but what about for the child struggling to pay attention and not get in trouble, again?
With a room of 30+ kids even one child struggling to sit and focus can change the entire environment. And for each child feeling wired and tired, frustrated, discouraged, sick of getting punished when they are doing the best they can – what can we do for them?
Is this struggle more common today than 30 years ago? Are there many possible causes? Of course! May one of them be nutrition? Absolutely!
As do many adults, many kids start out the day with no breakfast, or a breakfast full of unhealthy carbohydrates and lots of sugar. How do you feel when your breakfast includes sweetened coffee and a pastry? Or even a simple bowl of cereal and a glass of juice?
Symptoms of an unbalanced breakfast
Consider some of the symptoms you have experienced with a breakfast rich in carbohydrates and sugar and low in protein and healthy fats. Some of the signs of an unbalanced breakfast I see my clients feel include:
Inability to focus.
Where to start
First think about simple changes you can make.
Add protein – eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy or meat.
Skip the juice – even 100% juice is high sugar without the fiber you get from the whole fruit.
Eat within an hour of waking up – fuel early for energy.
Choose nutrient rich foods – lean sources of protein, fruits and vegetables.
Avoid inflammatory foods – if you experience chronic symptoms that aren’t resolved when getting the right balance, consider food sensitivities that may be causing inflammation.
Make it simple
One of the biggest barriers I see to a healthy breakfast is time. Mornings can be hectic and I know I don’t want to get up any earlier than I have to. But with a little bit of planning, you can have your kitchen stocked with easy options that even a tired teen can grab and go. Make sure your kitchen has these staple ingredients available.
Nuts – consider making your own trail mix including a variety of nuts with some dried fruit (preferably without sugar added). Package in small containers for a single serving breakfast on the run.
Nut butters – even a peanut butter sandwich can be a great energy source with healthy fat and protein to feed your body and your brain.
Fruit – bananas and apples are two very easy options that you can eat on the run. But also keep other fruits like grapes and berries washed and chopped in the refrigerator. And even better fill a container before bed with fruit to grab and go.
Hard boiled eggs – a wonderful protein source, always a nice staple to have around.
Greek yogurt – a good source of protein usually with less sugar than other yogurts.
Recipe ideas to try something new
Check out these recipes and be creative to build off of these ideas with ingredients you love and have around your house.
Click here for many more ideas.
Get your engine running and your brain fueled with a balanced breakfast and you and your kids will have greater focus, more energy and will feel satisfied all morning long!
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Lynda Binius Enright, MS, RDN, LD, CLT
Be Well Nutritional Consulting
Click here to learn more about Lynda Binius Enright, Be Well Nutritional Consulting and making healthy living a part of your life.