Breakfast, a lot of experts say it’s the most important meal of the day, but about one in 10 of us, 31 million Americans, skip it. That leaves breakfast skippers with no fuel or energy to power them through to lunch. They’re also stuck with a long wait for lunch and its energy boost for the rest of the afternoon. Breakfast eaters tend to have better diets overall, consuming more fruits, vegetables, milk and whole grains compared to non-breakfast eaters.
If you have a child, a nutritious breakfast and lunch are essential. Kids need breakfast because their growing bodies and developing brains need regular refueling. Studies show that kids who eat a healthful, balanced breakfast and lunch, are more alert during the school day and get better grades.
So, what should you and your child include in a healthy breakfast and lunch?
- Balance your calories. Want to know how many calories you should aim for? A number of online guides are available. The Dietary Guidelines are a good resource for finding what’s appropriate for you and your family. When planning your meals, balance your calories within your meals.
- Don’t rush through your meals, take time to enjoy your food. Eating too fast can lead to eating too many calories. Your body will give you cues when it’s time to eat and when you’ve eaten enough, but if you eat fast, you’ll miss those cues.
- Control your portion sizes. Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses. Don’t eat from a package, such as a bag of chips. When you portion out foods before you eat, you’ll know how much you’re eating. When you eat out, choose a smaller size option, share a dish or take home part of your meal.
- Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fat-free or 1% milk and dairy products. These foods have nutrients you need for health, including potassium, calcium, vitamin D and fiber. They should be the basis for your meals and snacks.
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Choose red, orange and dark-green vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli, along with other vegetables. Add fruit to meals as part of your main dish or a side dish or dessert.
- Fat free and low-fat (1%) milk have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk but with fewer calories and saturated fat.
- Make half your grains whole grains. Choose foods such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice. Look for the words “whole grain” in the ingredient list. Skip refined products such as white bread and white rice.
- Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars and salt. That includes cakes, cookies, ice cream, candies, sweetened drinks, pizza and fatty meats such as ribs, sausages, bacon and hot dogs. These foods can be treats but not everyday foods.
- Control your sodium intake. Look at the Nutrition Facts labels, and choose low- sodium versions of foods. Processed foods such as cereals, snacks and salad dressings should have less than 300mg of sodium per serving.
- Unsweetened beverages. Skip sugary drinks, sodas, energy and sports drinks. They’re major sources of added sugar and empty calories.
For personalized nutrition guidance, check with a registered dietitian — a trained nutrition professional.
The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.