Healthy breakfasts, homemade low-fat granola

August 15, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"Breakfast provides an excellent opportunity to ensure your kids get the nutrition they need each day to learn at their best," says Registered Dietitian, Robin Levy, a spokesperson for Midwest Dairy Council.

Eating a healthy breakfast, including nutrient-rich foods such as low-fat and fat-free dairy and other nutrient-rich foods, provides the essential nutrition school kids need to learn at their best. Kids need at least three servings of low-fat milk, cheese or yogurt each day to get adequate calcium and other key nutrients, like potassium and vitamin D. Studies show kids who eat a morning meal have improved concentration, score higher on tests and behave better.

This back-to-school season, Midwest Dairy Council and the Chicago Bears are kicking off the third year of their free in-school health and wellness program, "Fuel Up to Play 60" -- now in 3,800 Illinois schools -- that encourages kids to "fuel-up" with nutrient-rich foods and to "Play 60" minutes a day. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn recently signed the Fuel Up to Play 60 pledge in support of the program.

Launched by National Dairy Council and the National Football League, with additional partnership support from U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fuel Up to Play 60 has motivated more than 1,928,000 students in Illinois, to be healthy, get active and make a difference. To learn more about Fuel Up to Play 60, visit

Robin explains that fueling healthy and active kids is easy with the variety of nutrient-rich convenience foods now available. She suggests stocking a "Mom-approved" breakfast bowl with grab and go nutritious foods, like ready-to-eat cereals, fruit, yogurts and flavored milks. Kids can help themselves in the morning.

On those days when kids are late out of the gate, Robin reminds parents that school breakfasts are a cost-effective and convenient option that supplies 1/3 of the Recommended Daily Allowances a child needs. Illinois schools offer the School Breakfast Program -- just like the National School Lunch Program -- funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, offering students a chance to start the day with a healthy meal. However, less than 40 percent of the students who qualify for a free or reduced price lunch program participate in school breakfast. In fact, Illinois ranks 44th in the nation for program participation, losing more than $38 million in unclaimed federal dollars. This puts kids at a greater disadvantage, because research indicates that hungry kids have more trouble focusing in class and complain of headaches, stomachaches and other ailments more frequently. Barriers, including stigma and transportation logistics, are some of the reasons cited for low participation.

Midwest Dairy Council and the Illinois No Kid Hungry Campaign, in partnership with the Illinois State Board of Education, recently announced the 2012-2013 Illinois School Breakfast Challenge. The public-private partnership challenges all Illinois schools to make breakfast a top priority! Awards in four tiers with each tier awarding three prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000, will be given to schools with the largest percentage increases in average daily participation rates for August-December 2012, compared to January-May 2012. Schools without a breakfast program will be judged based on the statewide average participation rate. Winning schools will be announced in spring of 2013. Go to to learn more about the Campaign.

For breakfast at home, Robin shares a quick and easy recipe that makes the grade:

Homemade Low-Fat Granola

Servings 9
Prep Time: 12 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

  • 4-1/2 cups old fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Preparation: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stir together oatmeal, almonds, cinnamon and salt, if desired, in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk maple syrup, apple juice and vegetable oil; pour over oatmeal mixture and stir to coat thoroughly.

Spread mixture in an even layer onto a 15x12-inch baking pan. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring twice during baking time.

Cool mixture in the pan before adding raisins. Store granola in an airtight container. To serve: Pour 1 cup milk over a heaping ½ cup of granola. Top with fresh berries, if desired.

Nutritional Facts per Serving
Calories: 320
Total Fat: 6g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 5mg
Sodium: 105mg
Carbohydrates: 53g
Dietary Fiber: 5g
Protein: 16g
Calcium: 35 percent Daily Value

Substitution idea: Instead of milk, top one cup of fat-free yogurt with the granola.

For more nutrition tips and breakfast recipes, visit

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