Shine Bright with School Breakfast

 

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) wants every student to “Be a Star with School Breakfast.” March 4-8 is National School Breakfast Week –a time to celebrate the many benefits of breakfast and encourage children to try breakfast at school. According to SNA, school meals are intended to help “safeguard the health and well-being of our nation’s children.”

healthy breakfast

healthy breakfast (Photo credit: urbanfoodie33)

There’s no doubt that breakfast plays a key role in helping children be their very best because it gets their day started on the right track. Deemed as the most important meal of the day for all ages, breakfast is especially critical for our school children. Studies show that children who eat breakfast every day, whether at school or at home, have:

  • Higher test scores
  • Better behavior with less need for discipline
  • Improved attendance rates and less tardiness

School breakfast is a good value at less than $2 per meal and it’s also ideal for busy families trying to get out the door quickly in the morning. This federally assisted meal program began as a pilot program in 1966, following the success of the School Lunch Program, and became permanent in 1975. School districts and independent schools that choose to take part in the breakfast program receive financial assistance for each meal they serve. In return, they must serve breakfasts that meet established nutrition requirements, and they must offer free or reduced price meals to eligible children.

What’s for breakfast?

School breakfasts must provide, on average over each school week, at least one fourth of the daily recommended amounts of protein, iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C. In addition, new nutrition standards released in 2012 also call for limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size, and reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. To meet these standards, schools are offering more fruits and vegetables, increasing whole-grain rich foods, and switching to fat-free or low-fat milk. Although school breakfasts must meet food group and nutrient requirements, local school nutrition professionals decide the specific foods to serve and how they are prepared.

Beginning July 2013, the required school breakfast meal pattern will include:

  • Fruit: 1 cup
  • Milk: 1 cup, either low-fat plain or fat-free flavored or plain milk
  • Grains: 7-10 oz per week for grades K-5, with minimum 1 serving at breakfast (8-10 oz for grades 6-8 and 9-10 oz for grades 9-12). At least ½ of grains must be whole grain-rich
  • Meat or meat alternative: Schools may substitute 1 oz of meat or meat alternative (egg, cheese, legumes, nuts, yogurt) for 1 oz of grains after the minimum daily grains requirement is met.

Check out these fun and nutritious sample breakfast menus from SNA – just remember to watch portion size, instead of singling out a specific ingredient such as high fructose corn syrup. Everyone needs a healthy start to the day, so make it a challenge in your household to eat a healthy breakfast every day—either at home, or send your child to try out school breakfast!

Betsy Hornick, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian, nutrition communications consultant, instructor at Rock Valley College and member of the CRA RD Panel, She writes regularly for consumer and professional audiences and also has experience in technical editing, nutrient analysis, project management, and nutrition labeling regulations. Betsy writes a bi-monthly column for Diabetic Cooking magazine, was co-author of The Healthy Beef Cookbook, and author of the 101 Best Food series.

RD Panel members provide general dietary information, but you should consult your own physician or dietitian for advice concerning your particular circumstance.

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