Rise and Dine

March is National Nutrition Month! This may be a good time for you to remind your family that starting their day with a nutritious breakfast can be important. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, adults often skip breakfast to gain extra time, use the time differently, or even consume fewer calories. Similarly, children may rush out the door with empty stomachs or may have only consumed empty-calorie snacks. In addition, neglecting a balanced breakfast can potentially lead to a myriad of negative consequences. So, you may want to ask yourself, “Is the extra time and calories I save in the morning worth the sacrifice of this important meal?” Let’s review how eating breakfast can help support your family members in their daily activities.

For adults

Metabolism: Eating a nutritious breakfast can help jumpstart your metabolism and enable your body to burn calories more efficiently throughout the day. This can contribute to weight management and better overall energy levels (Heo et al., 2021).

Cognitive function: A healthy breakfast provides your brain with essential nutrients, such as glucose, which can help your brain function at an optimal level. Studies have shown that breakfast consumption is linked to improved concentration, focus, and memory (Barr et al., 2013).

Blood sugar levels: Starting your day with a balanced breakfast can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent energy crashes and mood swings later in the day. This stability can be key for your productivity and emotional well-being throughout the day (Young et al., 2014).
Healthy eating habits: Eating a nutritious breakfast can set a positive tone for the rest of the day and help establish a foundation for nutritious dietary patterns (Uzhova et al., 2018).

For children

Growth and development: Children’s bodies are constantly growing and developing and require a steady supply of nutrients. A nourishing breakfast provides essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins necessary for healthy growth, strong bones, and cognitive development (Gibney et al., 2018).

Academic performance: Research indicates that children who eat breakfast tend to perform better academically and experience improved concentration, memory, and problem-solving skills (Wesnes et al., 2003). Starting the day with a nutritious meal can help facilitate effective learning and engagement in the classroom.

Energy levels: Breakfast can replenish energy levels that have been depleted overnight and can provide children with the fuel they need to stay active and focused throughout the school day. Skipping breakfast can lead to fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, which can hinder academic and social interactions (Adolphus et al., 2013).

Healthy habits: Teaching children the importance of eating breakfast can support lifelong healthy habits. When a family prioritizes breakfast, children can learn the value of nutrition and understand the role it plays in their overall health and well-being (Silvia et al., 2023).

Breakfast can benefit adults and children. When you make time for a balanced breakfast each morning, you can help set your family up for success and vitality throughout the day. For more information on how to incorporate a healthy breakfast into your routine, please look at the Additional Resources section below.

Additional Resources

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutritional needs, promote health, and prevent disease.

MyPlate.gov offers tips and resources that support healthy dietary patterns.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shares some breakfast advice paired with nutritious recipes.

Better Health Channel outlines the benefits of breakfast and offers suggestions for people who are short on time and/or struggle to eat early in the morning.


Adolphus, K., Lawton, C. L., & Dye, L. (2013, August 8). The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience7, 425. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00425

Barr, S., DiFrancesco, L., & Victor, F. L. (2013, January). Consumption of breakfast and the type of breakfast consumed are positively associated with nutrient intakes and adequacy of Canadian adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 143(1), 86-92. https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.112.167098

Gibney, M. J., Barr, S. I., Bellisle, F., Drewnowski, A., Fagt, S., Livingstone, B., Masset, G., Varela Moreiras, G., Moreno, L. A., Smith, J., Vieux, F., Thielecke, F., & Hopkins, S. (2018, May 1). Breakfast in human nutrition: The international breakfast research initiative. Nutrients10(5), 559. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10050559

Heo, J., Choi, W. J., Ham, S., Kang, S. K., & Lee, W. (2021, January 7). Association between breakfast skipping and metabolic outcomes by sex, age, and work status stratification. Nutrition & Metabolism 18, 8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12986-020-00526-z

Silva, P., Araújo, R., Lopes, F., & Ray, S. (2023, November 7). Nutrition and food literacy: Framing the challenges to health communication. Nutrients, 15(22), 4708. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15224708

Uzhova, I., Mullally, D., Peñalvo, J. L., & Gibney, E. R. (2018, October 26). Regularity of breakfast consumption and diet: Insights from national adult nutrition survey. Nutrients10(11), 1578. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111578

Wesnes, K., Pincock, C., Richardson, D., Helm, G., & Hails, S. (2003, December). Breakfast reduces declines in attention and memory over the morning in schoolchildren. Appetite, 41(3), 329-331. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2003.08.009

Young, H., & Benton, D. (2014, August). The glycemic load of meals, cognition, and mood in middle and older aged adults with differences in glucose tolerance: A randomized trial. e-SPEN Journal, 9(4), e147-e154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnme.2014.04.003

Healthy Habits

Part of being a parent means that you often put the needs of your child before your own. However, when a parent or caregiver ignores their own needs, they may become overwhelmed, and this situation could negatively impact their health or compromise their ability to care for a child. One way that parents can practice daily self-care is by developing habits that benefit their overall well-being.

Habits are behaviors that are routinely exhibited; are often performed automatically and without much, if any, conscious thought; and take minimal effort. Habits can be a regular part of your daily schedule – like making time every week for exercise, choosing nutritious food options at the grocery store, or driving home the same way after work each day. Good habits can create efficiency in your daily tasks and growth in your general well-being.

Many people have healthy and unhealthy habits, or behaviors, that they perform as part of their daily routines. Healthy habits are habits that can promote your well-being, increase your positive communication skills, or expand your personal growth and development. Healthy habits are an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and may include activities like getting an adequate amount of sleep each night or making it a priority to cook and eat healthy meals. Unhealthy habits, on the other hand, can negatively impact your health and even your relationships. Some examples of unhealthy habits may include overeating; smoking; drinking in excess; or, routinely, not getting enough rest.

Practicing healthy habits can help you feel better in the present and can promote long-term well-being benefits. Using healthy habits as a means of parental self-care can benefit you and your family over time. Furthermore, by maintaining healthy habits, you are modeling positive behaviors for your children. By consistently modeling these behaviors, you are showing your children that developing healthy habits is a good thing and having their own healthy habits will be important in their development and well-being.

Some examples of healthy habits are the following:

  • Getting at least 7 hours of sleep nightly
  • Exercising regularly
  • Setting aside time every day for mediation or self-reflection
  • Choosing to drink water over sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Attending regularly scheduled doctor visits

If you need help developing healthy habits, you can start by reviewing the following four stages of behavior change. According to the National Institute of Health, these changes need to take place in your life in order for you to create good or healthy habits:


This is the stage in which you decide that a change needs to take place and you decide that you want that change to take place. Sometimes, you realize that, in your life, something is wrong or that something could be improved. While you are in the contemplation stage you may not know how you are going to make this change, but you do understand a change is needed.

Example – You may realize that you are feeling low on energy every day because you are not getting enough sleep.


This is the stage in which you begin to think about how you want to or can bring the needed change to your life. During this phase, you will have decided to make changes, and you will begin to set goals for making those changes. You are laying the groundwork for the path to change and strategizing about ways to overcome the obstacles you may face. This is the stage right before you take action to change behaviors.

Example – After realizing you are not getting enough sleep, you start to think of ways you can fit more sleep into your schedule. Perhaps you decide to go to bed earlier or get up later, or, if there is time during the day, you decide to take a short nap.

Keep in mind the following questions as you prepare to create a healthy habit:

  • Are your goals reasonable and specific?
  • Is this something you would like friends or family to participate in?
  • Is your environment making it easy to accomplish your goals?

Example – If you would like to establish a healthier diet, have you removed junk food and replaced it with healthier options?


During this stage, you put your behavior change plan into motion. You are learning how to manage the needed changes in your routine and lifestyle, and you work to make these changes become part of your routine. You are also learning about what strategies you can use to effectively overcome the obstacles that may be preventing you from making positive behavior gains. Also, during this stage, the changed behaviors are becoming a more normalized and part of your routine and life, and you are, hopefully, beginning to see the fruits of your labor.

Example – You have decided on a plan to get more sleep. Maybe you are not watching television as late as you used to, or maybe you were able to find time in the afternoon to schedule a nap.


By now, your changed behavior feels like a more natural part of your life, and you may not even be giving it much thought. However, you need to make sure that you continue with the positive behavior changes. You may take a step back from time to time, this is normal, but it is important for you to get back on track and return to your new behaviors, so these behaviors can remain a normal part of your life.

Example – Now that you have been getting enough sleep and are consistently able to get adequate rest, you find you have more energy. However, sometimes you notice that for a couple of nights in a row you have watched an extra hour of television before bed. When you realize this is happening, you make an effort to get back to going to bed at an earlier time every night, so you reinforce your healthy habit and do not support an unhealthy habit.

Remember, breaking bad habits and making new ones can be very challenging. It is important to be patient with yourself and avoid becoming frustrated. Sometimes, mental health challenges can also get in the way of healthy habit development. If you feel like you may be experiencing some mental health concerns, be sure to meet with your healthcare professional so you can address any underlying challenges.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2020, November). Changing your habits for better health. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diet-nutrition/changing-habits-better-health

Children under 24 months are sweet enough without adding sugar!

Dietary guidelines for Americans are issued every 5 years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services. The 2020-2025 guidelines include updated information about added sugar for children younger than 24 months and recommend these children do not receive any added sugars. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated labels to include information on whether a food has added sugars and how much. 

Read the labels

The biggest sources of added sugars in the typical American diet are soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, snacks, and candy. An example of information about added sugar in packaged foods is now available on the “Nutrition Facts” label (FDA, 2021).

What is added sugar?

Many foods or beverages have extra sugar and syrups added to them when they are processed or prepared. These added sugars have many different names, such as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose (FDA, 2021).

Here are a few ideas for how you can help your family reduce added sugar intake:

  • Read nutrition facts labels carefully (CDC, 2020). Many foods now list whether a food has added sugar and/or the amount of added sugar. You also can find information about added sugar by reading the ingredients. Avoid serving foods and drinks with added sugar to children under 2 years old. Learn more about nutrition facts labels here (Healthy Children, 2020).
  • Serve water and milk. Avoid serving soda, sports drinks, sweet tea, sweetened coffee, and fruit drinks. Milk is a good beverage choice, and it contains natural sugar (lactose) and provides calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other nutrients children need.
  • Limit fruit juice. Fruit juice has more sugar per serving than whole fruit. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 4 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day for children ages 1 through 3 years old. It is recommended that you do not give fruit juice to infants under 1 year old (Healthy Children, 2020).
  • Go fresh and limit processed, pre-packed food and drinks. Sugar is often added to processed and pre-packaged food items while they are being made or at the table. For example, there are hidden sources of added sugar in processed foods like ketchup, dried cranberries, salad dressings, and baked beans (CDC, 2020).
  • Satisfy your child’s sweet tooth with whole fruit (Healthy Children, 2020). Keep bananas, oranges, or grapes in your young child’s line of sight, and offer these and other fruits regularly.

By limiting sugar and avoiding added sugars in your child’s diet, you are helping to ensure proper nutrition and a healthy beginning for your child. An app is available through the USDA My Plate Campaign to help you follow the new guidelines available on the My Plate website (USDA, 2021).



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 17). Food and drinks for 6 to 24 months old. Nutrition. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/foods-and-drinks-to-limit.html

Healthy Children. (2019, March 25). How to reduce added sugar in your child’s diet: APA tips. The American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/How-to-Reduce-Added-Sugar-in-Your-Childs-Diet.aspx

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2021, January 4). Changes to nutrition facts labels. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/changes-nutrition-facts-label

U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). What’s on your plate? MyPlate. https://www.myplate.gov

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020,

December). Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 (9th ed.). https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf

Fruits and Vegetables Month

Food can be fun! Colorful fruits and vegetables are a great way to add brightness to your plate and entice your taste buds. You can find a variety of fresh produce at local farmers’ markets. Visiting your local farmers’ markets can be an exciting family outing! You can gather fresh ingredients and colorful fruits and vegetables, and, best of all, it’s something you can do together.

Get your kids involved! Your children may want to help make decisions about what goes on their plates. While in the produce section at the grocery store, help them explore the different fruits and vegetable options. A fun activity could be to pick produce that creates all the colors in the rainbow!

Not only can fruits and vegetables add color and create fun family activities, but they offer many health benefits including lowering cardiovascular disease risk (Bondonno, Bondonno, Ward, Hodgson, & Croft, 2017; Lassale et al., 2016), protecting the body against oxidative stress (Brookie, Best, & Conner, 2018), decreasing mental health disorders (Brookie et al., 2018), promoting nutrient absorption, and acting as anti-obesity agents (Pem & Jeewon, 2015).

As autumn approaches, here are some seasonal favorites you may like to try at home!

Research indicates that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day will provide the greatest health benefits.

Do your part, live a longer life, and establish healthy life-long habits for your kids!



Bondonno, N. P., Bondonno, C. P., Ward, N. C., Hodgson, J. M., & Croft, K. D. (2017). The cardiovascular health benefits of apples: Whole fruit vs. isolated compounds. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 69, 243–256. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2017.04.012

Brookie, K. L., Best, G. I., & Conner, T. S. (2018). Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 9(APR), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00487

Lassale, C., Castetbon, K., Laporte, F., Deschamps, V., Vernay, M., Camilleri, G. M., … Kesse-Guyot, E. (2016). Correlations between fruit, vegetables, fish, vitamins, and fatty acids estimated by web-based nonconsecutive dietary records and respective biomarkers of nutritional status. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 427-438.e5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.09.017

Pem, D., & Jeewon, R. (2015). Fruit and vegetable intake: Benefits and progress of nutrition education interventions- Narrative review article. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 44(10), 1309–1321.


Are Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks Appropriate for Kids?

Kids soccer team drinking waterWhile sports drinks and energy drinks are two completely different beverages, many parents may not know what the differences are between the two.

Sports drinks are flavored, sweetened beverages designed to restore energy and fluids, and they contain electrolytes, minerals, and carbohydrates. These drinks have extra calories that could contribute to obesity and tooth decay. While there are certain child athletes who may benefit from consuming sports drinks due to participation in regular, vigorous activity (Rodriguez et. al., 2009), on average, children do not participate in the amount of physical activity that would warrant consumption of beverages that contain electrolytes (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011).

Energy drinks contain stimulants, like excess amounts of caffeine and sugar, guarana, and taurine, that are not found in sports drinks. These stimulants can potentially cause  harm in children’s bodies and can affect the development of neurologic and cardiovascular systems, increase anxiety, contribute to sleep disturbances, and increase heart rate and blood pressure (Seifert et. al., 2011). Some energy drinks can have more than 500 mg of caffeine, which equates to the amount of caffeine in 14 cans of soda (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2011). Additionally, one energy drink can contain anywhere from 7 tsp to 21 tsp of added sugars. The American Heart Association states that children between the ages of 2 and 18 shouldn’t consume more than 6 tsp of added sugars in 1 day (American Heart Association, 2016).

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends the following:

  • Pediatricians should highlight the differences between sports drinks and energy drinks with patients and their parents and talk about the potential health risks.
  • Energy drinks pose potential health risks because of the stimulants they contain and should never be consumed by children or adolescents.
  • Routine ingestion of carbohydrate-containing sports drinks by children and adolescents should be avoided or restricted because they can increase the risk of overweight and obesity and can cause dental erosion.
  • Sports drinks have a limited function for pediatric athletes; they should be ingested when there is a need for rapid replenishment of carbohydrates and/or electrolytes in combination with water during prolonged, vigorous physical activity.
  • Water, not sports drinks, should be the principal source of hydration for children and adolescents.


American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Nutrition and the Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. (2011). Clinical report-sports drinks and energy drinks for children and adolescents: Are they appropriate? Pediatrics, 127, 1182. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0965

American Heart Association. (13 September, 2016). Sugar and our children. [Blog]. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.yourethecure.org/sugar-and-our-children?s=q%3Dchildren%252Bsugar%26sort%3Drelevancy

Rodriguez, N. R., DiMarco, N. M., Langley, S., American Dietic Association, Dietitians of Canada, American College of Sports Medicine, & Nutrition and Athletic Performance. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(3), 509-527.

Seifert, S.M., Schaechter, J.L., Hershorin, E.R., & Litshultz, S.E. (2011). Health Effects of Energy Drinks on Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults. Pediatrics, 127(3), 511. doi:10.1542/peds.2009-3592

What to Drink: Aim for 0 Sweetened Beverages

What you drink is as important as what you eat. The 0 in 5210 Healthy Military Children stands for 0 Sweetened Beverages. Many drinks have added sugar and do not contain vitamins or minerals. Here are 7 tips for choosing better beverages.

  • Be a role model for your family by choosing water! 

    Drink water when you are thirsty, and offer water to thirsty children. Carry a water bottle with you, so you always have something to drink.

  • Add flavor to water.

    Try adding slices of cucumber, lemon, or other fruits. Add crushed ice and a fun straw!

  • Instead of soda or soft drinks, try sparkling water.

    Sparkling water comes in many different flavors. You can also buy plain sparkling water and add a splash of 100% juice or a squeeze of lemon or lime.

  • Keep a pitcher of water in the front of the refrigerator.

    Keeping water in the front of the refrigerator makes it easy for your family to see.

  • Choose a juice that says 100% juice on the label.

    Watch out for labels on juices that say juice drink, juice beverage, or fruit-flavored drink. These are not 100% juice. Juice beverages and juice drinks have added sugar and very small amounts of juice.

  • Avoid added sweeteners by reading the ingredient list on the food label.

    If any of the following ingredients are listed on the food label, the drink has added sugars: sugar, honey, corn syrup, and brown rice syrup. Also look for ingredients that end with “-ose,” such as fructose.

  • Watch the serving size!

    Many bottled drinks and juices contain 2 or more servings.

Remember to aim for 0 sweetened beverages every day!

Additional Resources:

May I Have Some Juice Please?

Smart Snack Tips for Healthy Children

The keys to smart snacking for healthy children include storing snacks where your family can see them; making snacks easy to grab and go; and great taste!

Follow these tips for healthy snacks:

  • Offer a variety of healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, at planned times throughout the day. Let children choose whether and how much they eat.
  • Wash and cut up fruits and veggies so they are ready to eat. Have your child help you place fruits and veggies into containers or bags, so they are easy to see!
  • Buy food in single-serve containers for grab-and-go eating, such as juice boxes, raisins, fruit cups, and baby carrots.
  • Walk your children through the kitchen and show them where you keep healthy snack foods. Put healthy snack foods where children can reach them, such as the lower shelves in your refrigerator, pantry, or cabinets. Keep fresh fruit, such as bananas and apples, on the counter where children can see them.
  • Ask your child what snack foods from each food group he or she would like to eat, and purchase those foods so they are available. Children are more likely to eat foods that they are able to choose.
  • Use clear containers and plastic bags or containers covered with plastic wrap, so your family can see what snack foods are inside.

For a list of healthy snack ideas for kids, visit:

May I have some more juice, please?

New recommendations for fruit juice.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new recommendations  on fruit juice intake in late May of 2017.  One of the most significant changes from the previous recommendations is to limit intake to less than 4 oz of juice per day for toddlers under 4 years of age. Previous recommendations still stand. These include limiting intake to 4 to 6 oz of juice per day for children ages 1 to 6 years old.  You can learn more by exploring our 5210 Families Toolkit found at 5210.psu.edu, where you will find some fun alternatives to juice for your family!  You may also visit the AAP website for the full report.