Giving kids a leg up in life
You’ve heard it before, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But a lot of us skip breakfast. Not a good example for the kids because alarmingly around 40 per cent of them are breakfast skippers too – ‘too tired’, ‘slept in’, ‘in a rush’, ‘not hungry’, ‘don’t like breakfast’, ‘dieting’ … But after fasting for eight or twelve hours, your child’s body is running on empty and needs a boost of energy to power it through the day. Kids’ muscles need fuel for the physical activities of the day and their brains need fuel to keep them concentrating in class so that they can achieve to the best of their ability.
After-school and weekends can be a busy round of organised activities to give kids a leg-up in life. But, if you really want your kids to do well – give them breakfast. Any breakfast is better than no breakfast; but some breakfasts will really fire up the brain. When Tufts University researchers gave 60 elementary school students oatmeal porridge and milk one day and Cap’n Crunch with milk another, they found that the kids performed better on a raft of tests after tucking into stick-to-the-ribs oatmeal rather than gulping down Cap’n Crunch.
If you think oatmeal means tearing open a packet of pulverised oat flakes and adding boiling water, you haven’t tried steel-cut oats. Instant oatmeal is refined, processed, and treated for instant cooking – which also results in instant digestion. Steel cut oats are the wholegrain groats (or the inner portion of the oat kernel) that have been cut not rolled or pounded, into just two or three pieces. They take longer to cook, but they also keep your kids feeling fuller for longer too and keep blood glucose levels stable for hours. Try our recipe for Stick-to-the ribs steel-cut oats.
For four people you need 4 cups water, a pinch of salt and 1 cup of steel-cut oats. Bring the water to the boil in a medium saucepan and add the salt. Slowly stir the oats into the boiling water. Return to the boil; but immediately reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, until thick and creamy – around 20 to 30 minutes. Serve with milk and topped with fresh fruit, toasted nuts, a drizzle of maple syrup or a swirl of all-fruit preserves.
Short of time in the morning? Try our ‘eat tomorrow’ version.
Make as above but as soon as you have slowly stirred the oats into the water, cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let it sit at room temperature overnight. In the morning, remove the lid and bring the oats back to the boil over high heat, stirring often. Immediately reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often from 8 to 10 minutes until thick and creamy.
Dr David Ludwig
– Dr David Ludwig is Director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program at Children’s Hospital Boston and author of Ending the Food Fight