Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

Contacts: Dr. Jenna Anding, 979-847-9228, j-anding@tamu.edu

Odessa Keenan, 972-952-9246, odessa.keenan@ag.tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – While the expression “breakfast is the most important meal” is subject to debate, there is no doubt a healthy breakfast gives children a strong start to the school day.  And healthful snacking helps keep them going throughout the day.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics has noted distinct benefits from children having a healthy breakfast,” said Dr. Jenna Anding, professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service nutrition specialist, College Station. “Among these are evidence that children who eat breakfast have a lower BMI than those who skip breakfast, and those who have breakfast have more energy and concentration. And this may lead to better academic performance.”

Breakfast is also a good time to get the family together for a meal, Anding added. She suggested family members wake 10-15 minutes earlier than usual to ensure there is adequate time for a family breakfast.

Bringing families together at mealtimes is one of the goals of the Dinner Tonight! program. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Rod Santa Ana)

“In order to make the morning rush hour move smoothly, plan what the family will have for breakfast the night before,” she said. “For example, if your family wants cereal as part of breakfast, have the bowls, spoons and a box of cereal on the table. Then the next morning you can grab the milk from the refrigerator, slice a banana or wash a handful of berries, and breakfast is ready.”

Anding, also a registered dietician, said a good breakfast should contain a nutrient-rich source of energy along with protein to help keep children satisfied until lunch. Examples include cereal made with whole grains, eggs and smoothies made with low-fat yogurt and fruit.

“A breakfast sandwich made with whole wheat bread or English muffins, an egg and a slice of ham or other lean meat works great for those who want to eat on the run,” she said.

Odessa Keenan, Texas AgriLife Extension Service assistant in Dallas for the agency’s Healthy Texas initiative, said the agency’s Dinner Tonight website at https://dinnertonight.tamu.edu/ contains breakfast recipes as well as recipes for healthy snacks and other meals.

She said the Dinner Tonight program was developed to help provide busy families with quick, healthy, cost-effective recipes. In addition to recipes, the Dinner Tonight website also provides weekly video demonstrations of cooking techniques and tips along with helpful information on nutrition, menu planning and healthy living.

“The Dinner Tonight website has recipes and videos for quick and easy morning meals and make-ahead breakfasts,” Keenan said. “Two of our more popular breakfast choices are our simple breakfast smoothie and breakfast power bowls.”

Keenan also noted the importance of healthy snacking to keep students energized before or after lunch.

A grain muffin can be one of the items chosen for a healthy snack of for breakfast. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

“Fresh vegetables such as carrots, celery and tomatoes, whole fruits, unsweetened applesauce, low-fat cheese sticks, whole-grain crackers and low-fat yogurt make for healthy snacking,” she said. “Nuts and seeds are good choices too because they contain healthy fats along with protein that can help keep hunger at bay. And a homemade cookie or whole grain fig cookie is fine to add as an occasional treat.”

She suggested preparing vegetables and fruits ahead as this will help save time, and research has shown that children consume more fruits and vegetables when they are cut up and ready to eat. If packing them in a lunch for school, make sure they are kept cold.

“There are a wide variety of healthy snacks that can be made using sliced fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, almond butter, cheese, rice cakes, cottage cheese, popcorn, sunflower seeds, nuts, tortilla chips, salsa and other fairly common ingredients,” Keenan said.

She said the Dinner Tonight website has 30 healthy and easy summer snacks for children at https://dinnertonight.tamu.edu/summer-snacks/.  More youth-oriented food choices can be found at https://dinnertonight.tamu.edu/recipes-kid-friendly/.

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