Friday, August 22, 2008

Investing in breakfast

Breakfast is the only meal at our house that gurantees everyone will be in the same room for a meal. It's only natural, then, that breakfast is a big deal for us, especially during the school year. In the summer, there's a lot of toast, fruit and cereal, but when the school bell rings (or buzzes or dings or chimes, take your pick), the meals get heartier.

I grew up in a house in which the school-day breakfast was a free-for-all scavenger hunt. Most days, there wasn't anything but a glass of milk as we rushed out the door. Perhaps it's to overcompensate for that, but I'm determined my two (and their dad) will leave the house full-up and ready to go.

A typical breakfast in the fall includes two eggs, two pieces of bacon, two pieces of toast and a bowl of oatmeal or grits. For the fourth-grader. Sister eats about one-fourth of that, but still, she's cranky if her belly is empty.

The folks at Cabot creamery and cheese have taken note of breakfast's role in children's lives. According to the American Dietetic Association, more than 40 percent of girls and 32 percent of boys who are of school age, skip breakfast on a regular basis.

"Better academic and physical performance are just two of the benefits that eating a healthy breakfast (and lunch) can provide,” says Sara Wing, Registered Dietitian and Cabot Health Spokesperson. "They also provide your children with about half the vitamins and nutrients they need daily. After-school snacks are also important,” Wing says.

The effect of nutrition on children hasn't gone unnoticed.

Why are so many school kids starting off their day without eating what many health experts agree is the most important meal of the day? The reasons seem endless: they over-sleep, their parents are too busy, they want to lose weight, they are too rushed or they simply don’t want to be bothered making the meal. Some of these excuses are understandable — but none are good reasons for skipping the most critical meal of the day.

According to a recent study by pediatricians at the famed Boys Town Pediatrics in Omaha, Neb., breakfast affects a child’s overall performance during school by:
• providing energy needed to start the day
• eliminating hunger symptoms such as headache, fatigue and restlessness
• helping them to think faster and to respond more clearly to teacher questions
• increase mental performance
• making them less likely to be irritable
• causing them to be calmer and less anxious

The same holds true when it comes to lunch and after-school snacks says Wing.

"When helping your children make healthy meal choices, it is important to teach them these quick tips for healthy eating:

• always make sure your meal is made up of foods from at least two-to-three different food groups
• choose from fiber-rich foods like whole grains, fruits or vegetables
• include a protein source like lean meats, reduced fat cheese or yogurt, legumes or nuts
• set a good example – be sure to eat breakfast (and whenever possible, lunch) and dinner with your children
• let your children help plan your weekly breakfast and lunch menus

By following these tips, you can help ensure your child gets the nutrient sources they need to fuel the mind and body throughout the school day.

“After-school snacks are also important,” Wing says. “Take time to prepare after-school snacks for your kids – especially if you are not going to be home until dinner. The less junk food they have, the better. Be sure to have healthy snacks like fresh fruit, reduced fat cheese, rice cakes, muffins, whole grain cereal and yogurt on-hand and ready to eat - especially for latchkey kids. If healthy snacks are at hand and ready to eat, it’s a safe bet your child will want to eat them.”

Here’s Wing’s menu of easy-to-make Cabot recipes for school kids and grown-ups alike:

Breakfast Pinwheels
Makes 4 servings
1/4 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Cabot 75% or 50% Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar (4 ounces)
2 teaspoons powdered Ranch dressing mix
4 large whole-wheat tortillas
12 slices Canadian bacon

1. Combine cheeses and dressing mix; divide evenly among tortillas, spreading to edges. Place three bacon slices along center of each tortilla.
2. Roll up tortillas tightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
3. Remove from refrigerator and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices to serve.

Nutrition Analysis
Calories 258 , Total Fat 10g , Saturated Fat 4g , Sodium 1146mg , Carbohydrates 14g, Dietary Fiber 9g, Protein 27g , Calcium 300mg

Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Quesadillas
Makes 4 servings
Nonstick cooking spray
4 (10-inch) flour whole-grain tortillas
1 cup chunky applesauce
1 cup grated Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon melted Cabot Salted Butter
1/2 cup Cabot Light Sour Cream

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. 

2. Spread applesauce over two tortillas. Top with cheese and remaining tortillas.
3. In small bowl, mix together brown sugar and cinnamon. Brush tops of quesadillas with butter and sprinkle with half of sugar-cinnamon mixture.
4. Bake for 6 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
5. Meanwhile, stir sour cream into remaining sugar-cinnamon mixture.
6. Cut each quesadilla into quarters. Serve topped with dollops of sour cream mixture. 

Nutrition Analysis
Calories 312 , Total Fat 10g , Saturated Fat 6g , Sodium 587mg , Carbohydrates 44g,
Dietary Fiber 11g , Protein 14g , Calcium 240mg

Cheeky Cheese Turkey Pockets
Makes 8 servings

1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup Cabot Light Sour Cream
1/2 cup bottled reduced-fat ranch salad dressing
3 cups chopped cooked turkey or chicken
1/4 cup chopped fresh broccoli
1/4 cup chopped apple
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup grated Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
4 (6- to 7-inch diameter) whole-wheat pita bread rounds, halved crosswise

1. In small bowl, stir together yogurt, sour cream and ranch dressing.
2. In medium bowl, combine turkey or chicken, broccoli, apple, raisins, carrot, cheese and pecans. Add dressing mixture and toss to coat.
3. Spoon mixture into pita halves. Wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
4. Pack in insulated container with ice pack.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Nutrition Analysis
Calories 285 , Total Fat 10g , Saturated Fat 2g , Sodium 409mg , Carbohydrates 26g,
Dietary Fiber 3g , Protein 23g , Calcium 80mg