7 Ways to Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast

7 Ways to Get Your Kids To Eat a Healthy Breakfast

You’ve heard the old saying, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but when it comes to our kids, most don’t eat it.

According to an August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, only about one-third of kids eat breakfast every day, 17 percent never eat breakfast and the rest only eat breakfast a fews days a week.

If your kid doesn’t like to eat first thing in the morning, doesn’t have time for breakfast or doesn’t like what you’re serving, don’t give up.

Here, learn some simple strategies to get your kids to eat a healthy breakfast every day.

1. Make breakfast family time

If you’re rushed in the morning to get your kids out the door and they’re feeling the pressure, they may feel too anxious to eat breakfast.

Instead of stressing out, carve out enough time for breakfast, even if it means the beds don’t get made or the dishes are left in the sink.

You can also make breakfast an opportunity to spend some quality time as a family together, especially if you don’t eat dinner as a family.

Read a Bible verse, ask your kids what they’re grateful for, or talk about your plans for the weekend. 

2. Don’t eat a late dinner

After-school activities can make it tough to eat dinner on time, but if your kids are eating dinner late, they may not be hungry for breakfast.

Try to feed your kids before you head out to activities and discourage after-dinner snacking so they’ll have an appetite come morning.

3. Do some easy meal prep

If there’s no time to make breakfast in the morning, make it ahead of time.

Set aside individual re-sealable bags of fruits and veggies for smoothies, make overnight oats or parfaits in mason jars, boil a batch of hard-boiled eggs, or make a frittata, egg casserole, or egg “muffins” at the beginning of the week or the night before. 

4. Let them decide

Cereal and toast are easy options for breakfast but if your kid is more likely to eat leftovers for breakfast, then go with it.

Pair a protein with veggies or a piece of fruit, serve soup, or mix leftover rice with coconut milk, nuts, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey to break out of the breakfast rut.

Another way to give kids choices is to make something easy like oatmeal, and then let your kid choose the spices, nuts, seeds, and fresh or dried fruit.

5. Wake up earlier

Little kids are up early anyway, but if your kids are older and they like to sleep in until the last possible minute, they probably don’t eat breakfast because there’s no time.

An easy fix? Try moving their bedtime back a half an hour or so until they can wake up in time.

6. Take the lead

No surprise here, but only 47 percent of adults in the U.S. eat breakfast every day, according to a 2015 survey by Instantly.

Although you may think mornings are hectic enough, carving out time to eat a healthy breakfast may encourage your kids to do the same.

7. Serve a morning snack

If your kid isn’t a breakfast eater, stick to small bites.

Serve 4 or 6 ounces of a green smoothie, apple slices with almond butter, mini muffins, energy bites or raw vegetables with hummus.

What are some of your tricks to get your kids to eat a healthy breakfast? Let me know in the comments.

7 Nutrition Mistakes All Parents Make

7 Nutrition Mistakes All Parents Make

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.

We all want our kids to eat healthy, but between food marketing, brands that tout health claims and some outdated advice from experts, deciding what to feed your kids and what to avoid can be challenging.

Although most of us are well intentioned and try our best to offer healthy foods, there are still some common nutrition mistakes all parents make that can affect kids’ health now, and well into the future. Here are 7.

Nutrition mistake #1: Serving only “breakfast foods” for breakfast

Let’s face it: if you have young kids, mornings are stressful.

I get it.

Most mornings, I’m up at 5am to pray, read a devotional and enjoy a cup of coffee—and quiet—before my kids get up.

Once they’re awake however, it’s always a mad rush to feed them breakfast, get them ready and on the bus.

Cereal and toast are definitely easy and quick options for breakfast, but serving the same ‘ol breakfast foods every day can be a missed opportunity to get nutrition into your kid’s diet. Not to mention—it can get boring.

If you think out of the [breakfast] box and offer new types of foods, kids can also become healthier, more adventurous eaters.

Since lunch and dinner may be the only time kids are offered vegetables, breakfast is another chance to get them into your kid’s diet. The more you offer vegetables, the more likely your kid will be to eat them.

It’s not necessary to re-invent the wheel every day, but try to change things up a few times a week. Add leftover veggies to scrambled eggs, make chia seed or pumpkin pudding the night before, pull together a bean burrito or serve baked tempeh instead of toast, for example. 

Nutrition mistake #2: Filling up on processed snacks

We must recognize that our kids are growing—physically, mentally and emotionally—and what we feed them should be real, whole foods packed with nutrition to fuel that growth.

Bags of crackers, chips, cookies and other snack foods are easy to throw in a lunch box or pack when you’re on the go.

But processed snacks are usually made with refined carbohydrates and are high in sugar, sodium and artificial ingredients. They also lack the protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals kids need.

Do your best to avoid processed foods and instead, stick to whole foods for snacks. For ideas, check out my blog post, Healthy Kids’ Snacks 101: When, What and How Much

Nutrition mistake #3: Thinking all yogurt is healthy

Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, which promotes satiety and can prevent weight gain. It’s also a great source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and vitamin B12 as well as probiotics, the healthy bacteria that boost kids’ gut health and strengthens their immune systems.

Yet many yogurts, those that are marketed to kids or otherwise, are also sneaky sources of sugar.

Yogurts with pretzels, candy and crushed cookies are obvious sources, but those that are blended with fruit can also be high in sugar.

Read labels carefully and stick to brands with less than 11 grams of sugar, according to nutritionist Joy Bauer.

Siggi’s is one of my favorites for kids. Or serve plain Greek yogurt and add fresh fruit for a hint of sweetness and fiber.

Nutrition mistake #4: Missing sneaky sources of sugar

You already know to limit foods that are obvious sources of sugar like candy, cookies and ice cream, but sugar is sneaky and can hide behind at least 61 different names like fruit juice, cane sugar, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.

Foods like dried fruit, canned fruit and fruit cups, salad dressings, BBQ sauce, ketchup, juice, sports drinks, granola, instant oatmeal and cereal can all be sneaky sources of sugar.

Nutrition mistake #5: Avoiding all types of fat

Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the U.S. and as a result, parents are consistently told to limit the amount of fat in their kids’ diets and serve low-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat, for example.

Although experts say trans fats and some saturated fats should be avoided, foods with healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats from whole foods like fish, avocado, nuts and seeds and olive oil are all essential to kids health.

Nutrition mistake #6: Labeling foods “good” or “bad”

Labeling foods “good” or “bad” can turn mealtime into a power struggle and make your kid want the poor choices even more.

Teaching kids about healthy eating includes teaching balance. So although there are healthier choices, it’s OK to indulge in sweets and junk food.

When food is off limits, it can also create the same unhealthy eating habits many adults struggle with down the line.

Instead, talk to your children about making healthy choices and why they matter. For example, choosing celery sticks with almond butter will give your kid the energy she needs for sports while a bag of crackers will cause her to crash.

Nutrition mistake #7: Cutting carbs

Low carb diets like keto are all the rage for people looking to lose weight, but cutting some carbohydrates from a kid’s diet is a nutrition mistake. Check out my blog post, Is Keto Safe For Kids?

Refined carbohydrates like those found in white breads, pastas and rice and processed foods should be limited because they break down into simple sugars easily, cause blood sugar levels to spike and don’t satiate hunger—which might be one of the reasons your kid is always hungry.

Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, provide kids with the energy they need and support their muscle growth and brain development. They also take longer to break down, which keeps blood sugar levels steady.

Complex carbs are also high in fiber which satisfy hunger and prevent constipation.

Offer a variety of foods with complex carbohydrates including vegetables like pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes, fruits like berries, apples and pears, beans and legumes and whole grains like brown rice and quinoa which are also high in B vitamins, magnesium and iron.

Healthy Kids’ Snacks 101: When, What and How Much

Healthy Kids’ Snacks 101: When, What and How Much

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.

In the U.S., our kids snack all the time.

Kids eat snacks at daycare, pre-school, mom’s groups and on playdates.

They snack in their strollers, in the car, on the playground and after sports.

At school, young kids have a mid-morning or afternoon snack.

At my kids’ elementary school, some parents pack lunch along with several snacks like “veggie” sticks, crackers, pretzels and fruit-flavored gummies.

Starting in the first grade, kids can also buy “snack,” in the cafeteria. About 15 minutes after purchasing their lunch, they’re called up to get cookies, ice cream and chips.

Of course, there are also after-school snacks and after-dinner snacks.

Snacking is often seen as a healthy habit because it balances blood sugar, staves off hunger and prevents overeating, but it’s often used to keep kids occupied and happy.

Plus, experts say kids are snacking too much—a trend that’s responsible for the one-third of children who are overweight or obese.   

According to a March 2010 study in Health Affairs, kids reach for snacks 3 times a day and consume up to 600 calories from foods like chips, crackers and candy. What’s more, the largest increase in snacking over the years is among kids between ages 2 and 6, the same study found.

So you may have wondered, like I did, do kids need snacks in the first place? And if so, what is a healthy snack and how often should kids snack? Here, answers to those questions and more.

Do kids need snacks?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), snacks are not only an opportunity to support your child’s diet, but they can make it even healthier.

Most kids don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables every day anyway, but snack time can be a way to pack in more.

Snacks also give kids plenty of opportunities to learn what they like to eat—

and what they don’t—and chances to choose healthy foods and eventually become adventurous eaters.

Some experts however, challenge whether kids even need snacks in the first place.

“When I was a child no one snacked mid-morning and we all survived just fine. I don’t even remember being especially hungry. In other words, snacking is a philosophy. It’s an approach to eating. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not a necessity,” Dina Rose, PhD, author of It’s Not About The Broccoli says in this blog post.

Another drawback to non-stop snacking is that kids are less likely to be hungry when mealtime rolls around. If they’re snacking on junk food, it can displace calories from healthy foods which they’re more likely to get at meals. 

What is a healthy snack?

Surprisingly, there’s actually no static definition of a snack. Research shows it can be defined according to the time of day, type of food, amount of food, and location of where the food is consumed.

Generally speaking however, a kids’ snack is a small amount of food that satisfies hunger between meals and a way to add nutrition and increase fruit and vegetable intake in their diets.

With so many snack food labels calling attention to health claims like all-natural, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, high in fiber, made with real fruit, no sugar added and sugar-free, it can be difficult to choose a healthy snack for your kids.

Although it’s not always realistic to avoid processed foods, snacks in bags, boxes and packages are usually high in sugar, sodium and artificial ingredients, and low in fiber and protein and overall poor sources of nutrition.

A good rule of thumb: stick to whole foods and nutrient-dense options. Some good choices include:

  • Fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen)
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Seeds
  • Edamame
  • Beans and legumes
  • Hummus, bean dip or guacamole
  • Avocado
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Popcorn
  • Green smoothies (homemade, otherwise read labels)
  • Homemade, low-sugar muffins, energy bites and other baked goods.

How often should kids snack?

Just as there’s no clear-cut definition of a snack, there’s no hard and fast rule about when and how many times a day kids should have snacks.

“A good rule of thumb is to offer snacks a few hours after one meal ends and about 1-2 hours before the next meal begins,” Jo Ellen Shields, MED, RD, LD, co-author of Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens, said in this article.

The AAP suggests toddlers need 2 to 3 snacks a day, while pre-schoolers need 1 to 2 snacks per day to get the nutrition they need.

According to Jill Castle, RDN, in addition to 3 meals a day, school-aged kids need 1 to 2 snacks a day and teens need one snack a day unless they’re athletes or having a growth spurt.

When offering snacks, you should also pay attention to portion sizes so the snack doesn’t turn into a meal.

How do you handle snack time? And how many snacks a day does your kid eat? Let me know in the comments!

5 Healthy Types of Fish For Kids (& How to Make Them Delicious)

5 Healthy Types of Fish For Kids (& How to Make Them Delicious)

If you’ve tried to feed your kids fish, chances are their reactions—yuck! and gross!—and the mealtime battle that ensued was enough of a reason to never offer it again. 

There’s no getting around that fish is right up there with other offensive foods like Brussels sprouts and beans, but if you can get your kids to take a few bites, they’ll get a ton of nutrition into their diets.

Packed with protein, low in saturated fat, and rich in micronutrients, perhaps the biggest benefit of eating fish are the omega-3 fatty acids which support kids’ brain health and memory.

According to a December 2017 study out of the University of Pennsylvania, kids who eat seafood at least once a week have higher IQ scores—4 points higher on average—than kids who eat fish less frequently or not at all.

Studies also show that omega-3’s may prevent anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses.

In fact, an October 2011 study in the Journal of the American Academy and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids has a small, but significant, effect on improving attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms.

Of course, there’s always the concern of mercury in fish, which types of fish are safe for kids and how many servings are best.

Before introducing fish and shellfish to your child, be sure to check in with your pediatrician because of the risk of food allergies.

Although all types of fish are packed with nutrition, there are some that you might consider focusing on.

These 5 healthy types of fish for kids are high in vitamins and minerals, excellent sources of protein and healthy fats and low in mercury.

1. Tuna fish

Thanks to its mild flavor and aroma, tuna is perhaps one of the easiest types of fish to get your kid to eat.

Tuna is an excellent source of protein: an ounce has more than 8 grams. Tuna fish is also a good source of vitamin B12, phosphorus, niacin and selenium.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), canned light tuna (solid or chunk, including skipjack) is a “best choice” for kids.

White albacore and yellow fish are both considered a “good” choice, but because they’re higher in mercury, stick to one serving a week.

Serve tuna in a sandwich, lettuce wrap or in a green salad.

2. Salmon

To get dinner on the table almost every night, I tend to stick to the basics and serve many of the same meals.

Since it’s so easy and fast, salmon has become my go-to meal on Monday when we’re off to the races of a busy week.

Salmon is an excellent source of protein and a good source of niacin, vitamins B6 and B12 and selenium.

It’s also versatile enough to serve at any meal, not only dinner. Serve leftover salmon on toast for breakfast or make an omelet. Canned salmon also works well in a sandwich or a lettuce wrap for lunch.

3. Anchovies

My kids love anchovies as much as I do and actually fight over who gets more when we crack open a can.

Although anchovies are definitely a type of food anyone—including adults—either love or hate, they’re one of the healthiest types of fish for kids.

A good source of protein, anchovies are also rich in iron, niacin, selenium, magnesium and phosphorus.

An ounce of anchovies provide 7 percent of the daily value for calcium, which helps build strong, healthy bones and teeth.

Since they can be an acquired taste and are high in sodium, try adding small amounts to pizza, pasta and rice dishes, and chopped salads.

4. Sardines

Sardines are another type of fish my kids started to eat regularly after they saw me eating them and asked to have a taste.

A good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B12 and D, phosphorus and selenium, sardines are less pungent that anchovies but still packed with plenty of nutrition.

Fresh or canned, you can grill or sauté sardines, add a small amount of mayonnaise just like you would with tuna fish or add them to pasta and rice dishes.

5. Scallops

With a mild and slightly sweet flavor and soft, buttery texture, scallops are another healthy type of fish that kids may be more likely to try.

Scallops are an excellent source of protein, phosphorus and selenium and a good source of vitamin B12, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and copper. Scallops are also a good source of zinc, which supports a healthy immune system.

Kids like bite-sized foods and since scallops are so small, try serving them as an appetizer or paired with a dipping sauce.

8 Easy Ways To Cut Sugar From Your Kid’s Breakfast

8 Easy Ways To Cut Sugar From Your Kid’s Breakfast

Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links from Amazon Associates. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I recommend these products either because I use them or because companies that make them are trustworthy and useful.

Experts say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but when it comes to the foods kids are eating—things like cereal, muffins, pastries and sweet extras like jam, juice and sweet spreads—most make up a good portion of the sugar in their diets. 

In fact, according to a 2017 survey by Public Health England, an executive health agency, children get half of their daily allowance of sugar at breakfast.

What’s more, 84 percent of parents surveyed thought the foods they fed their kids were healthy.

When it comes to serving up a healthy, low-sugar breakfast, there are plenty of options if you plan ahead and think creatively.

Here, learn the types of foods to focus on, those to avoid and ways to cut sugar from your kid’s breakfast.

1. Read labels


When purchasing cereal and other breakfast foods, the best thing you can do is read labels and compare brands.

So-called healthy cereals that post claims like “a good source of fiber,” “gluten-free,” and “made with real fruit,” can be just as high in sugar as kid-friendly cereals that have bright, artificial colors and marshmallows, for example.

As the new Nutrition Facts labels continue to be rolled out, it will be easier to decipher labels and understand how much natural and added sugars are in the foods you buy.

Need more tips about what to look for and what to avoid in breakfast cereals? Check out my blog post, How to Pick a Healthy Cereal for Your Kids.


2. Pick protein


When you think breakfast, toast, waffles, pancakes and bagels usually come to mind.

If you’re looking for ways to cut sugar from your kid’s diet however, think about high-protein options which will also satisfy their hunger until lunch.

Serve hard boiled eggs or a frittata which can be made ahead of time and save you time in the morning, or incorporate leftover vegetables into a hash with eggs. You can also think out of the traditional breakfast box altogether and serve high-protein options like beans, tempeh or tofu.

Add a healthy fat like avocado and you have a low-sugar, filling breakfast.


3. Serve dessert for breakfast


Keep breakfast interesting by serving dessert—seriously! Think low-sugar pudding, breakfast cookies and baked oatmeals.

Superfood Triple Berry Chia Pudding from Skinnytaste.com and Paleo Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding from AgainstAllGrain.com are two recipes I like.

4. Make your own parfaits


Yogurt can be a healthy breakfast option for kids, but most yogurts, whether they’re marketed to kids or adults, are loaded with sugar.

To cut sugar from your kid’s breakfast, read labels carefully for hidden sugars like fruit juice, cane sugar, sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.

A safe bet is to stick to plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt, and add fresh or frozen berries, vanilla extract and nuts, seeds or a low-sugar granola for healthy breakfast that’s high in fiber and protein.

If you’re tight on time however, there are some healthy, low-sugar yogurts. I like Siggi’s or plant-based yogurts like Lavva.

For more tips about what to look for in yogurt, check out my blog post How to Pick a Healthy Kids’ Yogurt.


5. Make over muffins

 

Muffins may seem like a healthy breakfast especially those made with fruit and vegetables and topped with nuts, but most muffins are sugar bombs.

For healthier options, look for recipes for low-sugar muffins or egg muffins you can make yourself.


6. Nix the juice

 

Orange juice, apple juice and organic fruit juice boxes are marketed to parents as a healthy option, but they’re also significant sources of sugar.

In fact, a 3.5 ounce cup of apple juice—about one serving for kids—has 9 grams of sugar

If you still want to offer your kids juice, try making green juices with 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent juice. Also, watch portion sizes—4 to 6 ounces is fine.

7. Swap jam and jelly for whole fruit

 

Jam, jelly and fruit preserves seem like a healthy breakfast option—they’re made with fruit after all—but they’re actually highly concentrated sources of sugar.

Although store-bought options are fine when you’re in a rush, a better idea is to serve whole fruit: sliced, smashed or blended.

Whole fruit is also a great swap for honey and maple syrup.


8. Make a green smoothie

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 9 in 10 kids don’t eat enough vegetables.

Although it definitely takes a change in mindset, serving vegetables for breakfast is a great way to get more in your kid’s diet.

Although I don’t suggest you make smoothies to sneak vegetables, they can be an easy way to serve vegetables for breakfast and a low-sugar option.

On Sunday or the night before, set aside individual portions of green leafy vegetables and fruit, then add a protein source like almond butter and a healthy fat like chia seeds or flaxseeds and you have a healthy, low-sugar breakfast.