This story is part of a four-part series titled A Healthy Start and is sponsored by Breakfast Club of Canada, reaching 500,000 children in more than 3,000 programs in school and community settings each day.
Properly fuelling children for the busy day ahead is an important first step in the morning, with nutritious choices leading to big benefits throughout the day, something that Breakfast Club of Canada witnesses firsthand in school communities. The organization provides healthy breakfasts to over 3,300 programs across the country, with healthy ingredients being a primary focus.
Jane Dummer, registered dietician and president of Jane Dummer Consulting, has been extolling the virtues of a healthy breakfast for over 25 years, explaining that breakfast quite literally breaks the fast from the previous night, jumpstarting a child’s metabolism for the upcoming school day.
“Our brains and bodies convert that food into energy, so it’s really important to make sure we’re getting high-quality foods so that our brain is working optimally verses weighing it down with overly-processed items,” said Dummer.
Canada’s Food Guide identifies three categories for a healthy meal, including protein, carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables. Breakfast Club of Canada ensures these food groups are well represented in each of its meals.
“A balanced breakfast, including all three food categories from Canada’s Food Guide, is important because it gives children what they need to learn properly,” said Chloe Costa, program support co-ordinator of Breakfast Club of Canada.
An example of a healthy, balanced meal provided by the organization is its popular breakfast sandwich made with a whole grain English muffin topped with egg, cheese, lettuce and tomato. Another favourite item in its programs is a smoothie consisting of fruit, milk or a plant-based alternative, yogurt, kale, spinach and avocado.
For a fresh spin on nutritious offerings, Breakfast Club of Canada has developed numerous recipes over the years that its programs can access online. “It offers many options, including smoothies, no-cook and minimal-cook items, dips, recipes for muffin tins, and big batch and sheet pan options,” said Costa. “Some fan favourites include Berry French Toast Casserole, Frittata Egg Bites, Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits and Breakfast Energy Balls.”
Dummer adds that quality carbohydrates can include whole wheat toast or pita, whole grain cereals and a variety-grain oatmeal. For a breakfast protein, her favourite choices are Greek yogurt, eggs, nuts and seeds. And of course, the fruit and vegetable category is key.
“I’m really big on plain Greek yogurt because it gives us a nice amount of protein plus a carbohydrate from the natural sugars in the milk. Spreads like peanut butter and seed butters are also a good source of protein and have a certain amount of quality fats that are beneficial in the morning,” she said.
Costa explains that a balanced approach to breakfast is crucial, as protein is the building block of every cell in the body, vital for growth and development in children, while fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, and quality carbohydrates provide energy and promote satiety.
The importance of water for hydration cannot be overstated. All of these elements work together, equipping children at a foundational level for the day ahead.