Casey Seidenberg, co-founder of Nourish Schools, a Washington-based nutrition education company, answered questions about creating a healthful family breakfast in a recent online chat. Here is an edited excerpt:
Q: When trying to get breakfast on the table, cereal is the quickest way to go. But are cereals such as Cheerios and Chex really all that healthy? Even if theyre not the versions with marshmallows or honey, are they healthy enough when paired with (low-fat/skim) milk?
A: Processed cereals are not as healthful as whole-grain options such as whole oatmeal. The grains in a processed cereal have been broken down, so they dont provide all of the nutrition a whole grain would, and they often lack fiber, so they enter the bloodstream more quickly than a whole grain, which leaves a child hungry sooner. A better bet is a homemade whole-grain muffin, or pre-soaked oatmeal that can be heated quickly.
Q: I switched the term breakfast to mean eat something. It could be scrambled eggs on toast or a meatloaf sandwich. Some days it was a serving spoon of peanut butter and a glass of milk. Other days it was homemade milkshake with frozen fruit. Our child was in a carpool and I lived with empty glasses and greasy paper towels left in my car.
A: Leftovers often make a great breakfast! I agree that we should think out of the box when it comes to breakfast. We dont need to eat the very American cereals and baked goods. Meats and broth and greens are traditional morning meals in many countries and are a fantastic way to begin any day.
Q: Is there any risk to eating the same thing every day, as long as its something healthy?
A: As long as you are getting a variety of foods and nutrients throughout your day, you are probably fine eating the same healthful breakfast most days. It never hurts to shake it up on weekends or when you have more time. Perhaps add fresh fruit or some raw nuts to up the nutrition.
Q: It seems to be trendy these days to make your own nut butters, yogurt, flours, etc. Is it worth it? I guess Im wondering about taste-wise, nutrition-wise and price-wise.
A: Making your own food is wonderful! If you have the time, of course. I often make nut butters because we eat a lot of them, but I have decided that the ground flours are worth buying since there are wonderful options out there and I dont have the time to grind my own. Everyone has different amounts of time, different comfort levels in the kitchen, different budgets, and access to different foods, so I believe it is best to decide what works for you and your family.
Q: One of my three kids just plain isnt hungry in the morning. It takes at least two hours for her stomach to wake up, and before that, its all I can do to get her to drink a glass of milk. ... Shes starting kindergarten next month, and shell need to eat something in the morning! Ive tried smoothies, cereal, pancakes, muffins and all kinds of treats, but she just wont touch anything. Any thoughts?
A: My advice would be to do three things. First, explain to your child how important breakfast is to a growing child. This might not change her behavior immediately, but it is an important part of your role as a parent to teach her to make the right choices. Second, see whether you can pack her something to eat on the way to school or even at her desk. If discussed in advance, many teachers will allow a child to eat something at school if there is a good reason for it. Third, think about lighter foods such as smoothies (which I know you have tried!). Ask your child whether it would feel better for her to have a smoothie or a little fruit and plain yogurt instead of something heavier like oatmeal or a baked good.