This post was written by Thomas Arend, RDN, LD, Parkview Health.
School has already started for some and is just around the corner for others, which means early morning breakfasts for many students. This time crunch can make getting a well-rounded breakfast difficult. In hopes of alleviating this challenge, we’ve compiled some back-to-school breakfast ideas that will make it easier for your children to get a healthy and nutritious meal before heading out for the day.
Early morning challenges
Some of the hardest parts about breakfast during the school year are waking up early and feeling rushed for time. Students and parents alike are not always accustomed to waking up early. However, adjusting your and your children’s sleep schedule a couple of weeks beforehand can help your entire family feel well-rested for the first day of school.
Additionally, you may find that giving your children an extra 20-30 minutes to eat a distraction-free breakfast together will do wonders for everyone. All too often, people find themselves eating their first meal of the day alone or on the go as they get dressed, pack up and walk out the door. All these distractions can interfere with obtaining an optimal breakfast. But studies have shown that when we give ourselves extra time to focus on eating, we better understand our hunger and fullness cues. Also, taking more time at meals and eating together can set your children up for success and healthy eating habits as they grow.
Sidestep the sugar
Many may choose convenience over nutrition during the morning rush, but these breakfast items can contain an abundance of sugar. While sugar in moderation is okay, examining nutrition labels when purchasing cereal and toaster pastries is essential. It might surprise you to find that many kinds of cereal have a significant amount of sugar in them, with some containing nearly 50% of sugar by weight! The American Heart Association recommends children have less than 25 grams of added sugar daily. For this reason, it’s best to steer clear of these on-the-go options as they often leave kids feeling hungry shortly after eating them, and they may be missing key nutrients like fiber and protein.
It’s also important to get some fruit and vegetables in when eating breakfast. Adding a piece of fruit on the side of your breakfast or berries to cereal and yogurt, or even blending their favorites to make a delicious smoothie, are all easy ways to get more fruit into your children’s diet. And, while vegetables may seem more challenging to include in breakfast, many pair excellently with scrambled eggs and cheese. You can also throw some frozen spinach into a fruit smoothie for a healthy boost.
Quick and easy recipes
If waking up early and preparing breakfast seems a little daunting, don’t worry! Planning ahead doesn’t have to be complicated. There are many quick, easy and delicious breakfasts you can make ahead of time. Here are a few of my favorite recipes:
Toppings of choice
1. Mix all ingredients in a container and leave them in the fridge overnight. Top with nuts, nut butter or granola in the morning for a well-balanced breakfast.
Scrambled Egg Muffins
If you want to plan out your servings, one egg for each spot in the muffin tin is a good rule of thumb. Feel free to add some shredded cheese and or milk for a creamy texture. This recipe can easily be adapted to be dairy-free too. Try using different vegetables and seasonings until you find the best combo for you and your little learners. These egg muffins taste great reheated or straight from the fridge. They even freeze well, so feel free to make a large batch!
One of my favorite breakfasts is a yogurt parfait. Children can get involved in the preparation process, and the topping options are nearly limitless. Nuts, granola and fresh fruit, are all delicious and nutritious too. If you want to utilize some out-of-the-box ingredients, try hemp seeds, coconut flakes, cacao nibs and even oats. Then, top to your liking, stir and enjoy!
As for yogurt, I recommend a plain yogurt option as many flavored varieties can be full of sugar. For a bit of sweetness, try adding a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. If you’re looking for a little extra protein, Greek yogurt is a great option. For a little extra fat for younger growing children, whole milk yogurt can be an excellent choice. You could even try plain plant-based yogurt as they are becoming more widely available as well. With all the different variations, it will be difficult for this option to get old.
Following these tips and recipes will help set you and your children up for an excellent breakfast and a great start to the school year.