MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - Sep 6, 2012) - (Family Features) Eating breakfast that includes nutrient-rich foods, such as milk, cheese or yogurt, puts kids on track to meet recommendations made in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It also sets them up for greater achievement in school, as studies show kids who eat a morning meal have improved concentration, score higher on tests and behave better.

But including nutrient-rich foods in meals throughout the day can also boost energy levels. Healthy snacks keep kids on track and prepare them for after-school activities. And while fueling kids with the right foods before and after the school day is a priority for many families, busy schedules or tight budgets make it a challenge to ensure kids get the nutrition they need to learn at their best. Dairy foods offer a smart solution because they are nutritious, convenient and affordable. 

In fact, dairy foods deliver on taste, variety and availability, making them a simple addition to breakfast and snacks. Dairy foods also deliver nine essential nutrients -- including bone-building calcium and vitamin D -- making dairy one of the most economical sources of nutrition.

"Milk, cheese and yogurt take center stage in our house," says mom and Midwest Dairy Council registered dietitian Stephanie Cundith. "While my son loves them for the taste, I love that dairy foods support his nutritional needs without breaking the bank." To illustrate dairy's nutritional bargain, consider that milk -- white or flavored -- provides a powerful nutrient package and costs about 25 cents per 8-ounce serving.

How to Fuel Your Family
To fuel your family, aim for three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy every day, the amount recommended by the dietary guidelines for ages nine and up. Also, try these breakfast and snack tips:

  • Stock a "Mom-approved" bowl with grab-and-go foods in the fridge, like containers of flavored milk and yogurt, cheese sticks, and ready-to-eat cereal. 
  • Break boredom with a breakfast and snack swap. Eat cereal with milk after school and cheese and crackers in the morning.
  • When short on time, try the school breakfast program.
  • Be a role model. If you don't make healthy eating a priority, neither will your kids.

Find more tips and nutritious recipes, such as this kid-favorite, Pita Pizza Faces, at www.DairyMakesSense.com.

Pita Pizza Faces
Servings: 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

6 whole-wheat pitas (about 4 1/2-inch rounds)
3/4 cup tomato sauce, no salt added, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella or cheddar cheese, divided
2 tablespoons sliced black olives
3 cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 small yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into rings and cut in half
6 large basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place pitas on a greased cookie tray. For each pita, top with 2 tablespoons tomato sauce. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese on top of sauce. Make a face using 2 olives for eyes, 1 tomato slice for nose and 1 red pepper strip for smile.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until cheese is melted. While baking, tear each basil leaf into 4 parts, using 2 pieces for eyebrows and 2 pieces for a bowtie. Place on pizza after slightly cooled.

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Matthew Barksdale