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The Essential Breakfast

By: Kristen Finello

What's one thing you can do as a parent to give your child a leg up on the day? Start him off with a healthy breakfast! Research has shown that kids who eat breakfast perform better in school and are less likely to be anxious, depressed, or irritable. Among breakfast's other benefits, according to the American Dietetic Association:

The Building Blocks of a Healthy Breakfast

According to the nutrition experts at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, breakfast should provide children with one-fourth to one-third of their energy and nutrient needs for the day ahead. And a healthy breakfast should offer some protein, fat, and carbohydrates, plus important nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, folate, iron, and calcium. Sounds like a tall order from just one meal? Actually, packing these must-haves into a fast and nutritious breakfast is easier than it seems.

Nutritious Breakfast Ideas

Stumped for nutritious, easy-to-prepare breakfast dishes? Try these ideas from the experts at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center:

- Fruit smoothie made with yogurt and fresh or canned fruit -- whip them together in a blender

- Low-fat waffle, sliced fruit, and low-fat milk

- Fortified cereal with low-fat milk; 100 percent citrus juice

- Peanut butter rolled inside a tortilla; 100 percent fruit juice

- Cheese and crackers or melted cheese on whole-grain toast; 100 percent juice

- Low-fat yogurt with added fresh fruit and low-fat granola cereal topping

Make Your Child's Current Breakfast Healthier

Try these easy swaps from the American Dietetic Association to boost the nutritional value of your child's favorite breakfast.

Current Breakfast: Cereal and milk Power Breakfast: Whole grain cereal with milk and fresh fruit

Current Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and bacon Power Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and bacon, one slice of whole grain toast, and a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice

Current Breakfast: Toaster waffles with syrup and sausage Power Breakfast: Whole grain toaster waffles without syrup. Instead, top waffles with yogurt and sliced strawberries or peaches. Swap the sausage for reduced-fat or turkey sausage, and add a glass of low-fat milk.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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