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Tarryn Jordaan talks to registered dietician, Lauren du Toit, about the importance of eating breakfast.
My mom always told me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is actually a proven fact. Research tells us that kids who don’t eat breakfast get a lower iron intake in their diets and are unable to concentrate properly at school.
Children’s bodies need to refuel and prepare for the day ahead after eight to 10 hours of sleep. But breakfast can be the most challenging meal of the day, especially if you have a fussy eater or you’re in a rush.
“It is best to give your child a breakfast that is rich in whole grains, fibre, and protein while low in added sugar,” says Lauren du Toit, a registered dietician with her own practice, and mom to a busy three-year-old boy. “This may boost your child’s attention span, concentration, and memory – which they need to learn effectively. Children are so active, their minds are being shaped and they are learning new things every day – so optimal nutrition is important for them to grow.”
Du Toit says kids who eat breakfast are more likely to get fibre and calcium in their diet: two key components needed in their daily intake. Good examples are cooked oats, French toast, scrambled egg or yoghurt with fruit and nuts .
Some of her favourite easy breakfast suggestions are whole-wheat ProNutro, Futurelife® or oats with milk, and half a small pawpaw.
A boiled or scrambled egg on toast, with a small glass of apple juice.
Baked beans on toast with a small banana.
Peanut butter and toast with a glass of milk.
She adds that fussy eaters can cause meal times to be extremely stressful. “Children between ages one and three are characterised by their curiosity and desire for independence and this includes manipulation of their own environment,” says Du Toit. “It is therefore expected that toddlers go through phases of reluctance and refusal to eat.
“This may be part of a manipulative strategy, or thanks to a greater interest in the world around them. Alternatively a minor illness may contribute to refusal to eat. This generally resolves itself.”
Tips for fussy or reluctant eaters
- Avoid force feeding and excessive coaxing. These struggles are not worth it and will most likely lead to a lifelong aversion to certain foods.
- Make food/breakfast fun. Allow the child to help with simple tasks e.g. measuring or stirring while preparing food.
- Ensure relaxed mealtimes.
- Serve food at the table in an atmosphere conducive to eating.
- Allow sufficient time for your toddler to complete the meal.
- In difficult eaters it may be necessary, though, to set a time limit (around 20 minutes) in which the meal should be
- completed. Attempts at attention seeking, refusals and undesirable behaviour should be ignored.
- Allow the child to feed himself. It will usually be messy, but this should be tolerated to allow the child to acquire the necessary feeding skills.
“All things are easier said than done, especially with children,” says Du Toit. “I know this because I, too, have a very fussy eater who developed an iron deficiency. However, I have learnt that we are not robots, nor are our kids, and no child is the same as another. Listen to your mommy instinct – it is usually right – or seek professional advice if necessary.”
As a first time mom, transitioning my son to solids was one of the most challenging tasks I experienced, as there is so much background noise relating to this topic and it can become quite overwhelming.
Quick and easy recipes
Here are some great recipes that are quick and easy to make for your toddler.
Peanut butter oats
Makes 1 serving
1 cup of rolled oats
1 cup of water
1 tbsp of no added salt or sugar peanut butter
1. Mix the dry oats and water, and stir in a pot over a medium heat,
2. Bring to the boil and then simmer for a few minutes until the oats has thickened slightly and the grains have swollen.
3. Remove from the heat and stir through the peanut butter.
4. Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving to your toddler.
Full Cream Yoghurt & Berry Delish
Makes 1 serving
½ cup fresh or frozen berries
½ cup full-cream yoghurt
1. Leave the berries to defrost for 1 hour. Do not heat the berries in the microwave or on the stovetop.
2. Combine the yoghurt and berries in your blender. I use my Babybullet. Pulse the mixture until it is a smooth purée.
3. Pour the purée into a bowl and serve.
Makes 1 serving
½ cup fresh full-cream milk
½ banana & a few blueberries
1. Pour the milk over the Weet- bix and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds on low heat.
2. Mix the milk and Weet-bix together until you get a good consistency. Add more milk if required.
3. Chop the banana and add with the blueberries
On a final note, I’m usually late and always in a rush in the mornings, so I’ve put together a few tips/suggestions to get you prepared, so that even in a rush, you are able to ensure that your child has a good breakfast before you dash out of the house.
- Prepare as much as possible the night before. Put out the necessary utensils and chop ingredients.
- Stock your fridge with healthy quick breakfast options such
- as yoghurt, prepared smoothies and fresh fruit snack packs.
- Have finger snacks available for those mornings where everything is just upside-down and you don’t even have time to brush your teeth. They can snack on them in the car.
- Lastly, try to get everyone up 10 minutes earlier.