Breakfast: the most important meal of the day. This rings even more true for our young ones. It’s when they get much of the energy required to learn, play, and grow.
A couple years ago, I had a child who would come into school every day absolutely miserable. He would cry inconsolably and refused to play or partake in any of the morning activities. It wasn’t until lunchtime, when he was able to eat, that he finally calmed down. He was the happiest boy for the rest of the day.
We talked to the parents about this, and quickly discovered that his breakfast consisted only of baby mash and a cup of milk. He hated eating it and was refusing to eat enough to satisfy his hunger. Once we talked about changing breakfast to include food that was a little more appetizing, he came in smiling and had much smoother drop-offs from then on.
While doing your own work, whether that’s sitting at a desk or being up on your feet, when do you focus the best? It’s likely you’ve experienced an empty stomach, where all you can think about is what you’ll get for lunch; maybe you skipped breakfast that day, or all you managed was a donut. Either way, you are not getting as much work done as you would on a full stomach.
The same goes for our children. Their work is play, but it’s hard for them to focus on playing if all they can think about is the rumbling in their stomachs.
In childhood philosophy, we often discuss a theory known as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” The theory goes that you need each level of the pyramid in order to fill the needs of the next level. If one level of the hierarchy is not being met or fulfilled, then a child cannot develop to their fullest extent. (McLeod, 2007)
For now, we will focus on just the bottom level: physiological needs. More specifically, we will focus on the need “food.” This includes far more than making sure there is enough to eat, we also need to be giving children a well-balanced diet. Every kid enjoys sweets such as ice cream or pastries, some might only want to eat pasta and nothing else, but this will not keep them full or give them the nutrients to grow their brain and body. So, what should we be giving them?
It is best to offer a variety of foods so that they do not get bored with breakfast and help broaden their tastes so that they are more willing to try new and healthier foods.
Proteins: Foods such as meat, eggs, beans, and yogurt that will keep them full for longer. Protein will digest much slower than foods that are high in sugar, as it has many more nutrients to be dissolved into the blood stream and it won’t give your child a “sugar crash” later in the day. Proteins also provide the much-needed “building blocks” to make and repair cells in the body. (Why Is Protein Important In Your Diet? | Piedmont Healthcare, n.d.)
Complex Carbohydrates: Often found in fruits, starchy vegetables (squash, peas, etc), and whole grains. This will help provide your toddler’s brain and muscles with the energy they need, keeping them active throughout the day. Just as with protein, complex carbs keep you fuller for longer. It takes the body a lot longer to digest, and it can use the nutrients found in complex carbs more than in simple carbs such as in sweets, pastries, and sodas. (Younkin, 2017)
Healthy Fats: Ground flax seeds, olive oil, nut spreads, and even avocado can be worked into their breakfasts. Fats are important for a child’s brain development, giving the brain an “insulator for electricity.” (Why Is There so Much Fat in Our Brain?, n.d.)
Liquids: Drinks are important too! Offer them a cup of milk or water. You can even offer them a fruit/veggie smoothie if you have the time to make one.
Try to avoid sugary and artificially sweetened foods. If you’re worried about oatmeal being too bland or yogurt seeming unappealing, try mixing fresh fruits to naturally sweeten it. Bananas, strawberries, or blueberries are a great way to start; just make sure they are cut up into manageable sizes for your little one.
If you’re having a hard time getting them to eat, here are a few tips to help ease them into these new foods:
- Try presenting it in a fun way! Create smiley faces out of blueberries or use a special plate to entice your child.
- Eat the same food (and make a big deal out of it). When sitting down, try saying: “Oh, look! We’re both eating yogurt!” Even if they don’t eat it right then and there, it will help show them it is a safe food to eat.
- Introduce it with familiar/favorite foods.
Here are a few places to find simple recipes to get you started:
Simple Toddler Recipes: 15 Toddler Breakfast Ideas (Easy + Healthy) | Dietitian Meets Mom
Vegan Breakfast options: 17 Easy Vegan Breakfast Ideas | Cooking Light
Nut Free ideas: 17 Nut Free Breakfast Ideas to Jumpstart your Morning| Nut Free
Thank you for reading!
Book of the Month: “Can you Smell Breakfast?” By Edward Jazz. “Can you Smell Breakfast?” | Amazon
Ivy and her mom try to figure out what dad’s cooking in the kitchen by the smell of it. Is it pancakes? Cotton Candy? Oatmeal?
Fish, J., n.d. 15 Toddler Breakfast Ideas (Easy + Healthy). [online] Dietitian Meets Mom. Available at: https://dietitianmeetsmom.com/toddler-breakfast-ideas-healthy/#:~:text=Meat%2C%20eggs%2C%20beans%2C%20yogurt%2C%20and%20nut%20butter%20are,and%20corn%29%2C%20and%20even%20whole%20grains%20provide%20energy. [Accessed 6 July 2022].
McLeod, S., 2007. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. [online] Simplypsychology.org. Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html [Accessed 6 July 2022].
Piedmont.org. n.d. Why Is Protein Important In Your Diet? | Piedmont Healthcare. [online] Available at: https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/why-is-protein-important-in-your-diet [Accessed 6 July 2022].
Exploring your mind. n.d. Why Is There so Much Fat in Our Brain? [online] Available at: https://exploringyourmind.com/why-is-there-so-much-fat-in-our-brain/ [Accessed 6 July 2022].
Younkin, L., 2017. What Is a Complex Carbohydrate? [online] EatingWell. Available at: https://www.eatingwell.com/article/290631/what-is-a-complex-carbohydrate/ [Accessed 6 July 2022].