SOUTH BEND Are Pop-Tarts okay? What about juice? Is cereal enough? These are all common questions parents ask as their children sit down to a meal. As any nutritionist will confirm, it all strarts with breakfast. That first meal is an important way to kick off good decisions throughout the day, for both children and adults, but as age changes, so does a person's diet.
16 Morning News sat down with pediatric dietitian, Vickie Craker, who says both children and adults should follow the same nutritional guidelines. Both should be striving to get the essential food groups in their diets, starting with breakfast.
"The magic number is three," said Craker. "There always should be a protein source, there needs to be a carbohydrate or a grain, and we prefer those to be whole grain and then a fruit or a vegetable. Then pair that with a drink that provides calcium."
For kids, breakfast is especially important because it helps them stay focused at school.
"There's been many studies to show that children actually perform better if they have breakfast," said Craker. "Behaviors are better if they have breakfast, so it's very important to include breakfast as part of your daily routine."
Children and adults need fruits and vegetables, which are full of B vitamins; fiber, which can be found in many cereals; and protein. Where their diets differ, is calcium. Children need as much as 3-4 servings a day.
"Adults often don't drink that much," said Craker. "For children it's almost like a bank account. You have your first 20-25 years of life to deposit calcium into your bones, unfortunately a lot of the sweetened beverages- your pops, your energy drinks- are taking the place of having a calcium-rich beverage."
Most parents can attest getting kids to eat certain foods isn't easy. That's why Craker offered several unique and quick meal solutions.
"You have to sometimes think out of the box," said Craker. "We tend to think it's sausage and bacon, but any protein that's good for other meals is okay for breakfast as well."
-Add nut butters to bread, doesn't have to be peanut, can be almond.
-Leftover pizza is easy and okay to do sometimes, especially if it has protein-rich meat, like ham.
-Ham and cheese tortilla, another easy option that can be grab-and-go and made the night before.
-Eggs are the most complete protein and can be quick if they are hard-boiled or a way to stir in veggies as an omelet.
Two of the most common ways to start a child's day are with Pop-Tarts and juice, both quick, tasty and easy. Craker says Pop-Tarts are okay sometimes if you add to it.
"Put some peanut butter on top of it or serve it with a piece of cheese. Those are some ways to make it more nutritious," said Craker.
Craker says juice is okay if," it's an appropriate portion size in with a balanced diet."
You should also look for 100% juice that doesn't have added sugar. Extra calcium is a bonus.
For more information about pediatric nutrition, check out Healthy Children.org