Smart Choices: Foods to Fuel Kids at School

Porridge

Porridge

Slow Cook Porridge with Mixed Fruit in Blue Bowls

Now that the days are getting noticeably longer and the weather considerably warmer, summer is on everyone's mind, including your kids’. They're likely eagerly awaiting a sunny, stress-free summer vacation, but before they can close the books on another school year, most will be forced to endure a few weeks of final exams, projects and reports. As moms and dads, you may not be able to help out your kids with their advanced algebra problem sets or their comprehensive timeline of World War I, but you can surely send them to school with a hearty breakfast in their bellies. Just in time for test-taking season, Food Network checked in with Julie Negrin, M.S., a nutritionist, who shared Nutrition 101 for Parents and Kids. Among other benefits, following her suggestions for serving must-have wholesome foods "can lead to kids who feel calmer, sleep better … and study more." Read on below for some of her top tips, plus find family-friendly breakfast recipes to give your kids the fuel they need to succeed.

In place of cold cereals that are likely packed with unnecessary sugar, swap in a bowl of warm oatmeal. "Stick to whole food carbohydrates that are packed with nutrients," Julie recommends, explaining that they "take longer to digest." Food Network Magazine's Whole-Grain Breakfast Porridge (pictured above) is packed with healthful ingredients like red rice, steel-cut oats and barley, plus it's sweetened with just a single cinnamon stick, fruit and a bit of brown sugar. Since the porridge is made entirely in the rice cooker, it's a no-fuss breakfast that requires little attention. Your child is not an oatmeal eater? Try serving Food Network Kitchens'  Whole-Grain Waffles, which can be partially prepared the night before you plan to cook them.

Food Network's Breakfast Burrito

Photo by: Tara Donne ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Tara Donne, 2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Next to carbohydrates, Julie says that "it’s important to eat protein in the morning because it balances blood sugar, which affects our physical health, moods and behavior." Kid-friendly ingredients like eggs, chicken and pork are packed with protein, so working them into a morning meal doesn’t have to be challenging. A hearty hand-held breakfast that both kids and grownups will enjoy, Food Network Kitchens' Breakfast Burrito (pictured right) is stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs, Mexican-style chorizo (pork sausage) and cheddar cheese. Serve with extra pico de gallo and hot sauce in case older kids (or adults) want to dress up their burrito.

The third nutrient needed to provide your child with energy is a surprising one: fat. The key to including fat in your child’s breakfast is opting for better-for-you fats. "Fats have gotten a bad rap,” Julie admits, “however, high-quality fats from reputable sources can actually prevent disease. Small amounts of fats from plants such as avocados, nuts and coconuts can be protective." The avocado in the burritos above is a good source of monounsaturated fat, as are almonds, which Ina features in her Peach and Raspberry Almond Swirls.

Check out Food Network's Family and Kids Central to read more of Julie's Nutrition 101 for Parents and Kids.

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