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Guest Post: Nutritionist Jan Katzen (@NutritionistJan) is my friend on twitter. She's engaging and delightful and she can teach us all a thing or two about better feeding our children's brains. Don't send your kids to school on a tank that's filled with empty calories and "filler" (aka...the fake stuff). Jan shows us five quick breakfasts, plus three bonus meals, that get our kids' noggins ready for learning! Oh, yes!
Make My Day- Brain Boosting Breakfasts
When I began my career as a Montessori educator decades ago I had no idea what a child ate or didn’t eat for breakfast could dictate the difference between inattention, grumpiness, status quo, and excellence in classroom achievement.
Attention, learning, memory, sense of well being, calmness, and impulse control are byproducts of essential nutrients eaten daily. Essential nutrients must come from diet every day because the body cannot manufacture them from other nutrients. Protein contains 9 essential amino acids that build muscle, body tissue and chemical messengers in the brain that influence how we focus, feel and behave. Essential fatty acids from animal, fish, and plant sources are also required in a child’s daily menu. They regulate the brain’s chemical messengers so there is a good balance between arousal and calm for a balanced child ready to learn and able to face life’s challenges with a bit more emotional equilibrium.
Two important facts about nutritional components for breakfast:
1. Complete proteins such as beef, eggs, fish, chicken, and cheese contain all of the essential brain-boosting nutrients needed for learning. Peanut butter is low in the much needed amino acid, tryptophan - responsible for building the calming brain chemical, serotonin. Save nut butters for a mid-morning mini meal on sprouted whole grain bread. (There is no such thing as a snack for a child’s busy brain and body.)
2. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains with the bran and germ intact (steel-cut oats, stone ground corn chips and tortillas, brown rice, quinoa) and beans provide slow burning, sustained fuel for the “think tank.” Simple carbohydrates such as sugary boxed cereal, muffins, pancakes, waffles, Pop tarts, and protein bars provide fast burning fuel that soon drains the brain and alerts the body’s’ fight or flight system which is counter-productive to learning.
5 brain-boosting breakfasts for little (and big) learners
1-2 cage free scrambled eggs with 1-2 ounces wild fatty fish (lox, baked salmon, trout, cod), organic spinach leaves, 1 tsp olive oil poured onto eggs right before serving (helps more of the omega 3s from the fish incorporate into brain cells). ½ cup steel cut oatmeal w ½ cup low sugar almond milk
Breakfast #2 (Fun for children to make their own creation!)
Blueberry or pumpkin parfait sundae – Lace plain Greek yogurt (4-6 oz) with ½ cup steel-cut oatmeal, chia seeds (high in tryptophan – precursor to serotonin) crushed pecans, cinnamon, few drops of maple syrup, nitrate-free bacon (2 slices)
Breakfasts #3 (If you’re in a hurry, premake these and send ½ to school for a mid-morning mini-meal.)
Breakfast burrito – Soft stone ground corn tortilla, scrambled egg and/or 2 oz fresh meat/¼cup beans, sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, chopped baby arugula or spinach leaves, low sugar ketchup or mango salsa w 1 tsp olive oil
Breakfast #4 (My favorite because it contains brain-boosting nutrients in ½ cup servings. You can prepare this in a crock pot over the weekend and serve it for breakfast , lunch, dinner or in between every day of the week!)
Chili – Beans, ground meat or mild cod, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, sautéed onions, chili powder to taste, finely chopped baby arugula or spinach, cilantro, drizzle of olive oil before serving, ½ cup berries
½ cup cooked whole grain pudding (quinoa, bulgur wheat, brown rice etc.) 1 tsp butter, raisins, cinnamon, crushed nuts, Greek style yogurt, 2 pieces nitrate free bacon, ½ cup cantaloupe
****Bonus Blended, Breakfast
Blended smoothie with yogurt, soft scrambled or boiled cage-free egg, 1 tsp olive oil, few drops real maple syrup, frozen fruit, baby spinach, chia seeds, sprouted grain toast, 1 tsp high vitamin Kerrygold butter
****Oh, 2 more
Easy Breakfast Pizza
Toasted sprouted grain Ezekiel bread, tomato sauce, 2 oz mozzarella cheese, chopped basil, 1-2 oz ground meat/nitrate free pepperoni, place under broiler
Scrambled eggs and low sugar baked beans, sliced tomatoes, ½ cup pineapple
Greens for breakfast contain an abundance of trace minerals and B-vitamins including folate (Latin: folium - foliage). The need for daily folate continues after it builds the brain (neural tube). Folate lowers the risk of depression and increases memory and mental agility. It also supports vascular health throughout life and reduces the risk of developing cancer.
The assortment of fats and oils contained in the breakfasts are from natural sources, nothing chemically altered. Trans fats (man-made hydrogenated oils) are toxic fats for little and big learners. They have been implicated in neurological and vascular ill-health.
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Nutritionist Jan (Katzen) works for a developmental pediatrician and maintains a private practice in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a regular contributor to #parentingtips and #bloom, the authority on parenting. Follow NutritionistJan on Twitter. She is a certified nutritional educator and provides individualized nutritional evaluations and resolution plans for all family members – even couples planning for pregnancy! www.nutritionforlearning.com