CDC researchers found that water was the leading drink among US youths ages 2 to 19 between 2013 and 2016, accounting for nearly 44% of total beverage consumption, while milk accounted for 22% of total consumption. The findings in the agency’s NCHS Data Brief also showed higher water intake among Asians and whites, compared with Hispanics and blacks, while boys were less likely to drink water but more likely to drink milk than girls. Read more.
Breakfast is an especially important meal for school-age kids. Eating a healthy breakfast fuels kids’ brains and bodies and helps them concentrate and stay focused during the school day. In fact, numerous studies have shown that kids who eat breakfast have higher cognitive function and regularly perform better at school.
But the kinds of foods kids eat for breakfast is important, too. Grabbing a quick breakfast that’s high in sugar, saturated fat, preservatives, and other unhealthy ingredients can not only be unhealthy for kids, but may have a negative effect on their energy levels and their ability to learn.
Here are tips to create healthier versions of some of the most popular breakfast foods for kids.
Donuts and pastries such as Danishes and croissants are typically loaded with sugar and saturated fat.
Better breakfast option: Whole-grain toast with natural nut butter and jam with a glass of low-fat milk.
2. Frozen ham sandwiches on croissants
These calorie and saturated-fat bombs may be convenient (you can just microwave them and go), but giving your child this every single day is a bad idea.
Better breakfast option: Make a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs the night before and warm it up in the morning. Or make an egg and low-fat cheese sandwich with a whole-grain English muffin or bread.
3. High-sugar cereal with whole milk
In a recent survey, the Environmental Working Group found that children’s cereal contained an average of 40 percent more sugar than adult cereals.
Better breakfast option: Switch to whole-grain cereal that’s low in sugar and give your child low-fat milk instead of whole milk to cut down the amount of saturated fat in his diet. Read the cereal-box labels and look for ones that have at least 3 grams of fiber and no more than 7 to 10 grams of sugar per serving. If your child wants something sweet, you can always add some berries or some banana slices to the cereal.
4. Fruit drinks/fruit punches
Look for labels that say “100 percent fruit juice,” which is what The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. To cut down the amount of sugar your child gets, look for juices that don’t have added sugar and water it down before serving it to your child.
Better breakfast option: Skip the juice and give your child whole fruits instead. Or whip up a smoothie made with a banana, apples, kale, ice cubes, and other nutritious whole foods for a healthy breakfast drink.
5. Bagels with cream cheese
An entire bagel with full-fat cream cheese is high in calories and fat.
Better breakfast option: Give your child a mini whole-wheat bagel (or 1/2 a bagel) with a healthy topping such as low-fat cream cheese, nut butter, egg, or a turkey.
These are often loaded with saturated fat and sugar.
Better breakfast option: Make your own. Bake up a batch of mini muffins using less sugar and healthier ingredients such as whole wheat flour, carrots, raisins, and nuts. The best part: You can make these when you have some time and freeze them. Then you can simply warm them up in the morning with some fruit and yogurt as part of a healthy breakfast for kids. And if you’re running late, they’re portable, too!
7. Cereal bars or granola bars
While these may sound healthy, breakfast and snack bars can be wildly different in how much nutritious (and unhealthy) ingredients they contain. Some granola and cereal bars can be laden with refined carbs, sugar, and preservatives, and may be no better nutritionally than a candy bar.
Better breakfast option: The key is to read the nutrition labels and try to stick to those that are low in sugar and fat and have more whole-grain and other healthy ingredients and fewer preservatives. Look for bars that are made from whole nuts, fruits, and whole grains to provide fiber, protein, and other important nutrients.
As a general rule, try to combine three food groups–whole grains, lean protein, and fruit or vegetables–when planning a healthy breakfast for kids. Find recipes that you can make ahead to save time in the morning, and read labels carefully to make sure you steer clear of sugar, saturated fats, and preservatives. And since many of these healthy breakfast options can double as lunch ideas, you can also put them in your child’s school lunch box to make her lunch healthier, too!
Mom always told you to drink your milk, but did you listen? Although it’s one of the easiest ways to get your daily dose of calcium, not everyone can stomach dairy. Still, we all need calcium for strong, healthy bones, teeth and muscles. If milk isn’t your child’s thing, but you don’t want them to come up short, consider these additional sources of calcium:
One 3-ounce can of pink, canned salmon solids with bone gives your child 181 mg of calcium. Sardines are another great source of calcium; one can delivers 351 mg. Try mixing them into a salad if your child is worried worried about the taste.
Consider calcium-fortified soy milk, almond milk, rice milk or orange or cranberry juice. Check for labels on canned frozen juices to ensure they’re “calcium-fortified.” Just 6 ounces of calcium-fortified orange juice provides 261 mg of calcium, according to the National Institutes of Health. One 8-ounce glass of fortified soy milk yields 299 mg of calcium. (Budget-conscious shoppers: Pass on the organic or freshly squeezed juices, which don’t always provide extra calcium.)
Black-eyed peas pack a particularly hefty dose of calcium; just 1 cup weighs in at 183 mg. Baked beans are also high in calcium. Soak beans in water for several hours and cook them in fresh water to reduce a naturally occurring substance known as phytate, which can interfere with the body’s absorption of calcium, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Collard greens, turnip greens, kale, okra, Chinese cabbage, dandelion greens, spinach, mustard greens and broccoli are all excellent sources of calcium. For example, a half cup of fresh, boiled turnip greens delivers 99 mg of calcium, and 1 cup of raw, chopped kale packs 100 mg.
Nuts and seeds
A single cup of plain almonds delivers 243 mg of calcium, 1 cup of walnuts provides 78 mg. Hazelnuts are even better, with 1 cup packing 154 mg of calcium. Brazil nuts, found in most grocery stores, provide 213 mg per cup. Add flaxseeds or sunflower seeds to a green leafy salad for even more calcium. If your child is a peanut butter person, consider alternatives such as almond butter, cashew butter or pumpkin seed butter for a boost in calcium with less sodium.
Oatmeal and cereal
Breakfast cereals and hot instant oatmeal offer an easy way to stuff calcium into your child’s diet. Just be sure to grab a low-sugar brand or the old-fashioned rolled oats, which typically have less sugar than some instant packets. One cup of ready-to-eat cereal, meanwhile, can provide anywhere from 100 to 1,000 mg of calcium depending on the brand.