Fuel for School: Diet Tips for a Better School Year

Are you giving your kids the right fuel for school, or do their choices consist of PopTarts, Toaster Strudels, Cinnamon Toast Crunch or “leggomyeggo” waffles?

children's cerealsI have to admit, my mom really didn’t know a lot about nutrition when I was young. I pretty much ate whatever I wanted – none of which was healthy. Pop Tarts and sugary cereals with prizes in the box were a staple in our house. I wasn’t a big breakfast eater, and I’m sure my mom was just happen when I ate breakfast period – no matter what it was. However, she had no idea what it was doing to my day at school.

Ironically, my mom must have known a healthy breakfast had it’s advantages because my mom always made me a healthy big breakfast on test day. The problem is, no healthy breakfast in the world could help me get a better grade when I wasn’t paying attention all the other days I ate crap. What a child eats for breakfast greatly determines how they feel at school.

Fuel the Brain

You probably wouldn’t let your kid eat a piece of cake or some brownies for breakfast, but the majority of breakfast foods for kids are as equally unhealthy. They may taste good on the tongue, but they do nothing for the body.

toaster strudelSugary, high-glycemic breakfasts set your child up for failure. They will get your child happily out the door, but in just a couple hours (if that), they will likely lose energy, along with their attention span – unless they are lucky enough to have a stimulating class (like PE) that gets their blood sugar back up mechanically from exercise or activity.

pancake syrup Your child needs healthy low-glycemic foods rich in fiber, with a little healthy fat. Lower glycemic foods deliver an IV drip-like affect of energy throughout the morning. Sugary foods hit the system fast, and also leaves the system fast. Lower glycemic foods and healthy fats take a slower time to break down in our system. The longer it’s in the tummy, the longer the energy will last from the meal. Meals high in fiber keep the tummy full too, as well as regular blood sugar (and a ton of other great stuff too).

looney-tunesAs I look back, I remember eating nice big healthy breakfasts on Saturday mornings or on Holidays because that’s probably when my mom had more time to cook. Yet, that would be a good time to have a “treat” like waffles or french toast, because it’s not like I needed a lot of energy to watch cartoons all morning. But, for school, it’s a different story. Kids need all the help they can get to be alert, feel good and do well in school. A healthy breakfast is a must for your child’s brain – not to mention their waistline!

Eat This, Not That

This info graphic by HowManyCaloriesCounters.com shows what, and what not, to eat before exam day – but I think it’s how all students should eat to perform their best EVERY day.

Eat this, not that

Who’s the Boss?

healthy breakfast

I think back to my school days, and I can’t BELIEVE what I ate. Processed foods and coke were my go-to foods. I didn’t even know what oatmeal was. Whole grains? What is that? Eggs? Yuck! Yogurt? You mean frozen yogurt? Honestly, what kid is going to choose oatmeal over Captain Crunch or Pancakes!? Sure, there are a few kids who like eggs and toast, but most kids would prefer the breakfast that comes in a flashy fun package, complete with a toy.

senior-eating-cerealI remember thinking Special K was for overweight women and Raisin Bran was for old people – I only knew what the commercials taught me. It’s time for parents to be parents. It’s time parents teach their children to eat healthy – and to help them understand why it’s important (other than just being about weight).

You want your child to FEEL good. You want your child to perform their best – and I’m sure you don’t want them to gain weight or struggle with weight related health issues like diabetes. If you wouldn’t let them take drugs in your house, or make other poor choices that are dangerous or unhealthy, don’t let them make poor choices with food. While one poptart won’t hurt here and there, a child who is allowed to eat whatever they want when they are young, could have serious repercussions later in life.

One article in the NY Daily News on this topic said, “Childhood is a critical period in which dietary and lifestyle patterns are initiated, and these habits can have important immediate and long-term implications,” says lead author Dr. Jianghong-Liu, associate professor at Penn Nursing. “Breakfast habits appear to be no exception, and irregular breakfast eating has already been associated with a number of unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, frequent alcohol use, and infrequent exercise.”

Top 10 Sugar-Bomb Cereals

Here are the top 10 sugar-bomb kids’ cereals, ranked by percent weight in sugar by the Environmental Working Group. NOTE: 26% is the recommended MAX.

  1. sugarKellogg’s Honey Smacks: 55.6% sugar
  2. Post Golden Crisp: 51.9% sugar
  3. Kellogg’s Froot Loops Marshmallow:  48.3% sugar
  4. Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch’s OOPS! All Berries: 46.9% sugar
  5. Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch Original:  44.4%  sugar
  6. Quaker Oats Oh!s: 44.4% sugar
  7. Kellogg’s Smorz:  43.3%  sugar
  8. Kellogg’s Apple Jacks: 42.9% sugar
  9. Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries: 42.3% sugar
  10. Kellogg’s Froot Loops Original: 41.4% sugar

Click HERE to get healthy cereal ideas and read the rest of the story on Fitbie.com

FOLLOW my blog (located at the top right of my blog) for more healthy back to school tips this week!

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About Bonnie Pfiester

Fitness Columnist and Lifestyle Coach, Resident Trainer for Designer Whey, Fitness Advisor for FitStudio, powered by Sears, FitFluential Ambassador and Owner of Max Fitness Club, home of BCx Boot Camp in Vero Beach, Florida.

Posted on August 19, 2013, in Diet & Nutrition Tips, Healthy Foods, PFOODIE and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Christopher Chalas

    Thank you. This is a great article! And much needed.

  2. I have been slowly changing the way my kids eat. I recently succeeded in switching them to natural peanut butter. It’s really hard to convince my son. He has sensory issues and eats a limited menu of foods. My next goal is switching his cap’n crunch to a healthier alternative.

  3. Great tips! I know I will be using them when sending my 12 year old back to school. It is so hard to get her to eat healthy because I didn’t start out that way from the beginning. But I still try my best to get her to eat healthy most of the time.

  4. My goodness! I knew that cereals had a lot of sugar in them, but I didn’t think they were that much. I always make it a point to read labels on the back now, anything that has too much sugar or sodium is cut out. Great post!

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