Did you know that kids who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall, and are more likely to participate in physical activities?

Actively growing children need food at regular intervals to keep them healthy, both mentally and physically. In fact, kids who don’t eat breakfast tend to have a shorter attention span and less energy to carry out morning tasks. When kids come to school hungry, they experience more learning difficulties than children who are well-nourished. That’s why it is so important that kids start the day with a healthy meal.

While any breakfast is better than no breakfast, it is best to include nutritious foods from three of the four food groups. Whole-grain bread or cereal, fruit, milk, yogurt and eggs are all great options.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shares a number of quick and easy tips to help your family get a nutritious start to the day:

• Include a variety of foods – not just traditional breakfast foods. Leftovers from the previous evening’s meal, tuna fish and celery, or even a turkey sandwich will work.

• Give kids food that they like. You can mix healthy cereals in with a little bit of their more sugary favorites.

• Make healthy trade-offs, and remember that balance is the key. If you can’t include enough vegetables in the morning meals, include them in an afternoon snack.

• Prep foods the night before. Chop up fruit to include in cereal or yogurt parfaits, or cut vegetables for an omelet. Put out a bowl of nut-and-fruit trail mix for kids to grab a handful as they walk out the door.

Unfortunately, kids in many homes across the country are unable to easily get a nutritious meal in the summer. They are reliant on schools during the academic year, but have nowhere to turn in the summer.

To help fight hunger in our community, Carondelet Health Network is holding its Healthy Over Hungry cereal drive benefiting the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. You can help by donating healthy cereal June 7-14 at Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital, 1171 W. Target Range Rd. in Nogales.

Whole-grain cereal, when part of a healthy, balanced breakfast including dairy (such as milk and yogurt), fruit and lean protein, is a popular food item that experts say can easily address the hunger gap during the summer months when children are not in school. Healthy cereal contains one serving of whole grain, no more than 200 calories per serving, six grams or less of sugar and at least three grams of fiber per serving. It should also be free of artificial colors and dyes.

Together, let’s fight child hunger in our community.

(Knapheide is CEO of Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales.)

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