Family Meals: Tips for Nutritious, Delicious Fare (cont.)

Breakfast's affects on academic performance is really a no-brainer: After about 10 hours or so without food, eating in the a.m. fuels the brain and body for the day ahead. Plus, it's a meal, so when you skip it, you miss out on opportunity to consume important nutrients, such as protein, calcium, fiber, and vitamins.

Good Breakfast Bets

Of course, what you eat for breakfast matters. "Complex carbohydrates are the cornerstone of the most beneficial breakfasts because they produce a long-lasting supply of glucose for the brain and body," Bissex says. "Breakfast should also contain protein, fiber, and some fat to help children and adults feel fuller longer."

Translation: Go for fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, such as Wheat Chex or oatmeal prepared with milk instead of water. When topped with fresh, dried, or frozen fruit, breakfast cereals make a complete meal. And they are ready in a snap.

Time is always tight in the morning, but by keeping breakfast simple so you're sure to include it even on busy days. Here are some more quick and easy morning meals for the family:

  • Whole-grain toast topped with 1 1/2 ounces melted reduced-fat cheddar cheese; 1 cup cubed fruit
  • Fat-free latte; 1/2 whole-wheat English muffin with 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese; medium banana
  • Peanut butter pancake roll-ups: microwave two small frozen pancakes and spread with 2 tablespoons peanut butter; 1/2 cup grapes; 8 ounces 1% low fat or skim milk
  • Cooked oatmeal with applesauce swirled in; topped with raisins and chopped almonds; 8 ounces low-fat yogurt
  • 2 ounces smoked salmon on 1/2 whole-wheat bagel with low-fat cream cheese; 1 cup berries; 8 ounces 1% low-fat or skim milk
  • 8 ounces coffee flavored yogurt with 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ cereal mixed in; 1 plum or nectarine
  • Egg and pita sandwich: 1 egg scrambled in 1 teaspoon olive oil stuffed into whole-wheat pita pocket and topped with salsa; 8 ounces 1% low-fat or skim milk
  • Breakfast parfait: Layer 1 cup low-fat yogurt; 1/2 cup crunchy whole-grain cereal; and 1 cup fresh, chopped fruit, or whole berries

For Healthy Dinners, Plan to Succeed

For Chicago's Janet Helm, a working mother of 2-year old twins, planning is paramount for preparing healthy meals, particularly dinner. "You can't make nutritious foods without a well-stocked pantry, refrigerator, and freezer," says Helm, who is also a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant. "Knowing what you have on hand and where it is streamlines meal preparation."

"Prepared and take-out foods can serve as the centerpiece of a meal or as a side dish."

Helm notes that a well-stocked kitchen doesn't mean every meal is made from scratch. Frozen seafood, store-bought roasted chicken, and pre-cut and frozen fruits and vegetables are high on her shopping list because they are good for you and easy to use.

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