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For Kids’ Breakfasts and Lunches

August 15, 2013

As summertime bliss winds down, families are getting back into their fall routines with school, homework, after–school activities and even eating. As you bring structure back into your lives, don’t forget that fueling your children with the right foods is crucial not only for their growth, brain power and physical activities, but setting the stage for good health later in life. Here are some must–have eats for your children to supply three crucial nutrients that most kids fall short on in their diets: fiber, protein and calcium. Make sure to include sources of these three “biggies” at breakfast and lunch.

Low fiber intakes in children may set them up for diabetes, heart disease and obesity in their adult years, even as early as their teens! Kids need their age “plus five” in total fiber grams daily (e.g., a six year old need 6 + 5 = 11 grams daily). Choose higher fiber breakfast cereals—at least five grams per serving (mix high–fiber types with sugary cereals to entice the skeptical). Also top cereals or yogurt with fresh or dried fruit for soluble fiber that’s great for healthy circulation. Choose high–fiber breads (100 percent whole grain) and 100% whole–grain tortillas. Include colorful cut–up raw veggies in lunches with a low–fat dip.

 Choosing good quality, low–fat proteins ensures children not only get body–building nutrients, but also zinc, a mineral that keeps the immune system strong (so important during the school year). Make sure to include some protein at all meals: low–fat milk over cereal, yogurt (make into a smoothie with fruit), string cheese, hard boiled eggs, leftover chicken or other lean meats, and even pizza topped with cheese and lean meat. Also consider soy protein sources such as edamame (soybeans in the shell) and veggie burgers—these are pre–cooked and can be used in sandwiches or as a pizza topping. You know calcium is vital for growing bones, but new research suggests that getting adequate calcium, especially from dairy products, may be helpful in life–long weight control. Children and teens need two to four servings daily (one cup milk, yogurt or one and a half ounces of cheese). Choose low–fat or non–fat dairy, soy milk and yogurt, and calcium–fortified juices. Low–fat chocolate milk is okay (you can mix it with skim milk to keep sugar intake down). Use plain yogurt with savory seasonings or a bit of honey for a veggie dip, or mix it into canned soups for a “cream” style version.

Dr. Liz Applegate Ph.D.

Director of Sports Nutrition, UC Davis

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