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Prairie Fare: As Summer Winds Down, Gear Up for Breakfast, After-school Snacks

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
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Breakfast skippers usually more than make up for the 300 or so calories skipped in the morning.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

I recently spent the better part of a week with kids at a 4-H camp where I had the opportunity to teach and interact with about 50 high-energy 8- to 12-year-olds. The kids had no access to TVs, cell phones or electronic games, just lots of fresh air, exercise, learning activities and hearty meals.

The kids played hard and ate well. The adults were “played out” by the end of camp.

Every morning, the camp cook made a big pot of old-fashioned oatmeal in addition to the scrambled eggs, pancakes or other main breakfast dish of the day.

I admit I was skeptical when I saw the oatmeal bubbling on the stove. Would the kids eat it? To my surprise and approval, many of the campers ate the heart-healthy hot cereal every day. I did, too.

One day, I showed the campers how to make apple leather and dried apples. After it dried, I set out two bowls of fruit leather and dried fruit. Within a short time, they devoured the naturally sweet dried fruit.

The kids participated in a “healthy cabin challenge” in which the children tracked their water, fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity and other behaviors on a chart posted on the wall of their cabins. I learned that a little peer pressure to be healthy worked quite well.

Summer camps, vacations and activities are winding down and school begins soon. Now is the time for parents and kids to think about breakfast and school snacks. Here are some questions and answers about breakfast and snacks that apply to children and adults.

Q: We never have time for breakfast. Is it really that important?

A: Eating breakfast helps children and adults concentrate better. Children do better in school when they eat breakfast. Try some time-saving strategies. Set the table the night before. Put the cereal box on the table. If you want a heartier breakfast, such as pancakes, measure the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the wet ingredients in the morning. Many schools have breakfast programs that provide a balanced meal to fuel children for learning. Check if your local school does.

Q: I’m trying to lose some weight. Will skipping breakfast help?

A: Skipping breakfast may lead to overeating later in the day. Breakfast skippers usually more than make up for the 300 or so calories skipped in the morning. Enjoy foods from two or three food groups, such as fruit, milk and grain, for breakfast. A protein-rich food, such as an egg, helps combat hunger pangs later in the morning. Check out “Seven Steps to Making An Omelet” at

Q: My kids always are snacking. Isn’t this bad for them?

A: Growing children need snacks. Well-chosen snacks add variety to the diet and keep children and adults fueled for school or work. Children’s stomachs are smaller, so they need to eat more frequently. Eating smaller, more frequent meals is a good idea for adults, too.

Fresh fruits and vegetables always are healthy choices. For boxed snacks, be a comparison shopper and get the most nutritional value for your money. Read and compare the Nutrition Facts labels. Use “Percent Daily Value” when you compare foods. A food with 5 percent or less of the daily value is considered “low” in that nutrient. A food product with 20 percent or more of the daily value is considered “high” in that nutrient.

Here’s a kid-friendly recipe that requires no cooking. Watch a former North Dakota State University athlete make this recipe online in minutes at

Cereal Bars

3 c. whole-grain breakfast cereal (such as Cheerios, Kashi)

1 c. raisins or dried cranberries

1/4 c. slivered almonds

1 c. peanut butter (can substitute Sunbutter)

1/2 c. honey

Mix cereal, dried fruit and almonds in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the peanut butter and honey. Spoon the peanut butter and honey mixture over the cereal mixture. Mix well. Press mixture into an 8- by 8-inch pan. Chill for an hour, then cut into 16 squares. Wrap in plastic wrap for a quick, on-the-go snack.

Makes 16 servings. Each serving has 200 calories, 26 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 9 g of fat and 7 g of protein.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Aug. 15, 2013

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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