Give your kids the right start to their day by giving them some starchy foods in the morning. Starches are carbohydrates that release energy to fuel the body and feed the brain. Since your brain is constantly working, even in sleep, and since brain cells require twice the energy other cells use, breakfast starches can determine how a child performs in school and whether you misplace the car keys. Some medical conditions, weight control and school athletics all benefit from the right starches on the breakfast menu.
Carbs and Competition
Starch is the preferred pre-competition meal because it digests easily and converts to energy gradually. Whole grains are ideal for young athletes’ breakfasts. Whole grain pancakes, cereals, muffins or toast and bananas all have high starch content, coupled with dense nutritional value. Bananas provide a potassium bonus and some B vitamins and are at their starchiest before they fully ripen into sugars. Slice bananas over hotcakes or cereal or bake them into breads or muffins for your teen athlete’s morning meal. Extra carbs and a light exercise day before competition should be enough to provide a high school athlete with a competitive edge. The University of Illinois says the practice of carbo-loading before a meet or endurance activity is not recommended for adolescents, so talk with your doctor about the proper amount of carbs for your teen.
Skinny kids may need to put on weight, and healthy breakfast starch can help. Forget low-fat versions of nutritious foods and serve morning cereals like calorie-dense meusli with whole milk, bagels with cream cheese, and granola and dried fruit like raisins with yogurt. Starchy hash brown potatoes with ranch dressing can add calories and so can corn or carrot muffins with butter or a whole fruit spread.
Morning meals for people with diabetes should break the overnight fast with carbohydrates to help control blood glucose levels. The University of Illinois Extension says starch should take up half the breakfast plate. Good starch choices for breakfast are complex carbohydrates that release energy slowly, not simple sugars that hit the blood stream with an instant glucose surge. Breakfast on breads baked with nuts and seeds, whole grain cereals, rolls and brown rice dishes. Try ethnic high-starch favorites like Asian rice porridge or tortillas with refried beans to vary the menu. If you’re counting calories, don’t avoid morning starches. Just pair them with low-fat extras like milk or cheese and skip sugar coatings with empty calories.
Plants store glucose as starch and glucose keeps your brain in peak working condition. University of Toronto studies in 2000 showed that older adults who ate starches for breakfast, like barley or cereal and milk, had significantly improved memory within 20 minutes to an hour. The complex carbohydrates in natural foods break down slowly, supplying the brain with the glucose energy it needs in a timed release. Cook a bowl of oatmeal with raisins or make some whole grain waffles for junior, grandma and yourself to get everyone off to a sharp, high-energy start in the morning.
- University of Illinois Extension: Sports and Nutrition, the Winning Connection
- College of the Canyons; Eating Strategies to Gain Weight; Student Health and Wellness Center Sheri Barke; 2004
- University of Illinois Extension; Your Guide to Diet and Diabetes; Meal Planning
- The Franklin Institute; The Human Brain; Nourish – Carbohydrates Fuel Your Brain; 2004
- University of Illinois Extension: Emphasize Starchy Foods
- “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”; Cognitive Performance is Associated with Glucose Regulation in Healthy Elderly Persons and Can Be enhanced with Glucose and Dietary Carbohydrates; Randall J. Kaplan, et al; September 2000
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