5 back-to-school breakfasts to boost body and brain

Breakfast brain-boosters, Go Faster Food for Kids
Finding it hard to get the brain back into gear every morning? Kate Percy, author of Go Faster Food for Kids, brings you her top three performance-boosting “back-to-school” breakfast recipes, plus expert tips to turn your kids' breakfast into a nutritional powerhouse.

Did you know that the human brain is an active tissue containing billions of cells, called neurons, which need a constant supply of nutrients to function and grow properly? Recent studies at the Human Appetite Research Unit at the University of Leeds have proved that breakfast eating has a positive effect on children’s academic performance; children who skip breakfast have more difficulty focusing in class.

It stands to reason, really. Imagine a child’s body as a motor car. It needs fuel. Put the wrong type of fuel into the car, diesel instead of petrol for instance, and it will fail to function properly. Fill the car with the best quality fuel and the drive will be smoother and faster. 

What's in the cereal cupboard?

Start the new term by reorganising the cereal cupboard. Sugary, processed cereals are 'fast-release' foods; they release their sugars into the bloodstream quickly and provide only short-term energy which will be followed by a dramatic slump. The kids will be hungry again by 10 o’clock, they’ll start to fidget in class, and they’ll lose concentration. Take a good look at the ingredients list on the pack – do you really want your child to eat these on a daily basis?

Try replacing these cereals with 'slow-release' cereals – porridge oats, wholegrain cereals, homemade granola (see recipe) – which release their sugars gradually and provide a steady stream of energy to the brain. Ditching sugary cereals might cause some wingheing initially, but give it a go... I guarantee you’ll see improvements in mood and concentration and fewer sugar ‘highs and lows’. Best of all, you’ll save money on your weekly shop!

Breakfast mix and match 

Slow release carbohydrate is the name of the game at breakfast, but did you know that combining carbs with protein and fats at breakfast will reduce the rate at which carbohydrate is absorbed into the bloodstream and thus help sustain kids' energy (and therefore concentration) even more? It doesn’t have to be fancy! As in most houses, breakfast at Go Faster Food on a school morning has to be quick and easy. Try these quick fixes:

  • Porridge with milk, nuts and fruit (see recipe for Porridge with Bananas, Toasted Walnuts and Maple Syrup)
  • Weetabix with milk, blueberries and crunchy Demerara sugar
  • Poached or scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast
  • Grilled tomatoes or mushrooms on wholemeal toast
  • Homemade granola with natural yoghurt and fruit compote (see Maple and Almond Crisp recipe)
  • Breakfast on-the-go? Peanut butter sandwich on wholemeal bread and a yoghurt.

Healthy fats to boost the brain

Omega 3 fatty acids are found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. They not only provide fantastic energy, but according to numerous studies carried out over the past ten years, a diet rich in omega-3’s can play a role in improving mood and brain development. I’m not suggesting fish for breakfast (although Usain Bolt is famed for eating a saltfish stew for breakfast, and, as a child, I was treated to sardines on toast for breakfast at least once a week!), but here are a few suggestions to boost your child’s intake of healthy fats at breakfast time:

  • a small handful of nuts or seeds on breakfast cereal
  • peanut, cashew or almond butter on toast
  • eggs – however your child enjoys them, or in disguise in pancakes (see Oaty Hotcakes with Strawberries and Agave Nectar recipe)
  • use rapeseed oil for frying
  • chop nuts and seeds really finely and disguise them in granola

Maple and Almond Crisp

A nutrient-dense breakfast or an after-school snack; particularly delicious layered up ‘rainbow’ style, with Greek yoghurt and raspberries.

This recipe is packed with slow-burning carbohydrates and is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, bone-strengthening calcium and magnesium, as well as a host of other nutrients, including zinc and fibre. We like to create crispy clusters of granola by scrunching up the mixture on the baking tray before putting it in the oven.

This is not just for breakfast! Let kids munch on a bowl of Maple and Almond Crisp while they do their homework.
 

Ingredients to serve 6

200g jumbo porridge oats
100g flaked almonds
½ tsp ground ginger
3 tbsp maple syrup
½–1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp water

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
  2. Mix together the oats and nuts with the ginger, maple syrup, muscovado sugar, oil and water.
  3. Spread the mixture evenly onto a large baking sheet. Scrunch the mixture into little clusters.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown, turning the mixture after 10 minutes for it to brown evenly.
  5. Leave to cool for 5 minutes or so. It will crisp up like magic.
  6. Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

Go Faster Porridge with Bananas, Toasted Walnuts and Maple Syrup

Whether fuelling up for a football match or just a normal school day, a bowl of porridge is guaranteed to sustain a child’s energy levels.

Of course, porridge is just as good for adults; I rarely take on a long run without stocking up on porridge! Unlike sugary processed cereals, the carbohydrate in oats is released into the bloodstream slowly to prevent those 11 o’clock food cravings.

Top tip: soak the porridge oats in milk over night; they’ll only take a couple of minutes to cook the following morning.

Ingredients to serve 2

60g jumbo porridge oats
450ml water or milk, or half water
and half milk
pinch of salt
1 large banana, peeled and sliced thinly
handful of walnuts (optional)
1 heaped tsp maple syrup

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3, if using the walnuts.
  2. Put the oats, water and/or milk into a pan with a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil over a high heat and then turn the heat down and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The porridge will become thick and creamy.
  3. Meanwhile, pop the nuts onto a baking tray and roast in the oven for 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the porridge into two warmed bowls, sprinkle with the bananas and nuts and drizzle over the maple syrup.

Oaty Hotcakes with Strawberries and Agave Nectar

Ultra-light and very delicious, these oaty hotcakes are well-balanced, packed with protein, slow-burning carbohydrate, vitamins, calcium and a host of minerals. Low in GI, agave nectar avoids the ‘sugar rush’ kids experience when they eat honey or golden syrup. A fantastic start to the day for active kids!
Ingredients for 8 hotcakes

400g strawberries, washed, drained
and sliced quite thinly
4 tbsp agave nectar
150g wholemeal self-raising flour
50g jumbo porridge oats
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
15g caster sugar
2 large, free-range eggs, lightly beaten
150ml milk
40ml warm water
25g melted butter
knob of butter for frying

Method
  1. Combine the strawberries and the agave nectar in a small saucepan and warm over a very gentle heat. Set aside.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well for the eggs. Break the eggs into the well and then mix together quickly with a metal spoon, gradually adding the milk until you have a smooth batter.
  3. Add the warm water and the melted butter. Don’t let the mixture rest, use it immediately.
  4. Heat a pancake pan or non-stick frying pan and melt a knob of butter in it. Cook 3–4 oatcakes at a time over a gentle heat, using a scant tablespoon of batter for each cake. Gently cook for a minute or two until bubbles start to appear on top, then flip over and cook for 1 minute on the other side.
  5. Serve immediately with the strawberries and nectar spooned over the top.

These recipes are extracted from Kate Percy’s Go Faster Food for Kids.

For more delicious, superfood recipes to power your active lifestyle, follow Kate Percy @gofasterfood on Twitter or subscribe to www.gofasterfood.com or go to Amazon.co.uk.