Yes, breakfast is important nutritionally, but it is also the biggest missed opportunity for teaching your kids to eat right.
You’ve heard the nutrition news a zillion times before: kids need to eat breakfast. It makes them healthier and better students at school. (Though I’m not sure kids need the chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP which come in at over 600 calories, or the flapjacks at your local diner which are probably just as fantastic.)
But you probably haven't thought about breakfast from the habits perspective.
Used correctly, breakfast can teach kids to eat new foods. Used incorrectly... well, you probably know what happens.
Here are three ways to get the most out of breakfast:
1) Use breakfast to get kids used to the idea that they eat different foods on different days and they’ll be more open to new foods.
Most parents settle on the same 1 or 2 things to feed kids in the morning. It’s a busy time, and we want our kids to eat breakfast (after all, we know how important this meal is).
But feeding kids the same stuff all the time gets them used to eating the same stuff all the time. No wonder they balk when different stuff comes around - even if different comes later in the day.
Read Make "New” Work For You.
Tip 1: Rotate the breakfast foods you serve. You don’t need to introduce foods your kids have never eaten. Simply establish the procedure of not serving the same food two days in a row. If you must serve cereal every day, at least switch up the brands and the flavors.
2) Use breakfast to expand the taste, texture, appearance, aroma and temperature of foods your kids will eat and they’ll be more open to new foods.
Most parents think they are providing a variety of foods, but they’re not. Breakfast foods tend to all have basically the same taste, texture, aroma, appearance and temperature.
Toast, cereal, bagels, muffins, French toast, pancakes … they’re all relatively bland, bready products. Some offer a little more sweet, or a little more crunch, but the variation is minimal. That’s because the main ingredient is the same: refined flour.
Read The Ingredients Game.
Tip 2: Pay attention to which tastes your kids gravitate towards and then slowly introduce them to other flavors. Do the same thing with texture (do they only like crunchy?), appearances (are they white or beige eaters?), aromas and temperatures.
3) Use breakfast to reduce your kids’ dependence on sweet and fat-laden foods and they’ll be more open to new foods.
A lot of what we feed our kids in the morning fosters eating habits that run counter to the healthy stuff we’re always begging them to eat.
Do our kids really need to develop a lifelong taste preference for butter, cream cheese, and sugar? Not if you want them to eat broccoli.
Tip 3: Teach your children that …
- Butter is an ingredient in food, not a topping on food. Yes, it’s yummy but it’s also 100% fat, and nothing else. Get your kids in the habit of eating toast topped with peanut butter, cottage cheese, hummus, guacomole... anything but butter.
- Cream cheese is a treat, not a staple. According to the USDA cream cheese doesn’t fulfill your kid’s daily dairy requirement because it doesn’t have enough calcium. Instead, it’s a fat delivery system - think cream cheese - that packs in 100 calories per ounce. Most people slather on at least 2 ounces. Read about USDA Milk Group.
- “Children’s cereals” – which have up to 85% more sugar than those marketed to adults -- are treat snacks, not breakfast foods. Maybe this is one reason most kids have such a sweet tooth! Read A Spoonful of Sugar?
- Syrup. Is there really any point? Think Coke without the bubbles. Ounce for ounce Aunt Jemima’s syrup has 5 times as much sugar as Coke. (Coke has 3.3g sugar per ounce; the syrup has 16g per ounce. A point of reference: those little packets of syrup served at fast food joints are approximately 2 ounces.) Teach your kids to enjoy pancakes with jelly, fresh fruit or -- here's a radical idea -- plain naked (then they'll know what pancakes really taste like).
When it comes to teaching kids to eat new foods every meal counts, especially breakfast.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~
Source: Zinczenko, D. and M. Goulding, 2008. Eat This Not That for Kids. New York, NY: Rodale. p. 74; product labels.