After a relaxed, fun-filled summer, many families find it takes several weeks to get back into the swing of a school routine. With the busy morning rush of getting kids out of bed, lunches packed, backpacks together and parents to work on time, breakfast can easily become an afterthought. Yet research shows that breakfast is really important for children of all ages. Breakfast not only improves school performance, but also helps with overall nutrition and weight management.
Unfortunately, studies show that as students get older, eating breakfast gets worse. This is particularly problematic because school work is more demanding, kids are growing rapidly and breakfast skippers are missing out on key nutrients (vitamin D, calcium, potassium and fiber) that they don’t make up later in the day.
What can you do as a parent? Try these tips and strategies to help your children of all ages start the day fueled for school.
Make breakfast in advance.
Overnight Oats – Assemble this recipe the night before to save time during the morning rush. The base ingredients are oats and milk. You can add nut butter, nuts or seeds, fruit and any favorite flavors. You can soak just the oats and milk and add the flavorings and other mix-ins the next morning or combine all ingredients in a bowl or Mason jar and soak overnight.
The result is delicious straight out of the refrigerator or heated in the microwave on chilly mornings.
½ cup oats
¾ cup milk
Flavorings: honey, vanilla, cinnamon
Fruit of choice, such as raisins, berries or peaches
Mix-ins of choice, such as walnuts, slivered almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds or nut butter
Hard-boiled Eggs – Boil eggs on the weekend and store in the refrigerator for a quick, easy option in the morning. Serve with a glass of milk and a piece of fruit or toast or a filling.
Pumpkin Oat Muffins – Check out the popular recipe in my book, 400 Moms. This is lower in sugar than most muffins and combines oats, pumpkin, walnuts and spices for a flavorful, quick breakfast option.
Combine three food groups.
By serving three food groups at breakfast, your child will get a variety of important nutrients that will help her stay full longer and focus better at school.
Breakfast burrito: Scramble eggs with cheese, leftover potatoes, black beans, spinach, red peppers or mushrooms. Spoon into a warm tortilla, top with salsa, roll and serve.
Yogurt Parfait: Layer yogurt, fruit and nuts (or a low-sugar granola or cereal) into a glass or bowl. Ideally, use plain yogurt and add a teaspoon of low-sugar jam or honey to sweeten. That way you have control of how much sugar is added and it will be much less than sweetened yogurts.
Breakfast Quinoa: Most people serve quinoa as a side dish at the dinner meal, but it makes a great breakfast because it is higher in protein than oats and most cereals. You can make it in advance and be sure to cook extra for a quick, “heat-and-eat” option. Use double the liquid (milk or water) to quinoa and simmer 20-25 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. In the morning, heat in the microwave on high for 30-60 seconds, then add chopped nuts and fruit to make a hearty, high protein breakfast.
Take it on the road.
Hard-boiled eggs and healthy muffins are not only make-in-advance options, but also easy on-the-go choices that kids can eat in the car or on the bus ride to school. Many parents tell me they can’t get their teenager to eat breakfast before leaving for school. They say, “She’s so tired and just doesn’t feel hungry early in the morning.” If this sounds like your child, insist she or he takes one of these on-the-go breakfasts in a backpack to eat at brunch or in between classes.
Healthy trail mix – The recipe in my book, 400 Moms, includes low-sugar cereal, almonds and dried cranberries. To avoid boredom, combine different low-sugar cereals, nuts and dried fruit each week for variety. Make a batch on the weekend so it is easy to pour into a baggie or container the night before.
Egg-Canadian Bacon Sandwich – This can be made the night before by cooking the eggs and Canadian bacon. Toast an English muffin, add the eggs and Canadian bacon, wrap it in foil and refrigerate. In the morning, remove the foil and heat in a toaster oven at 400-degrees F for 2-3 minutes or until the English muffin is crunchy.
With a little advanced planning breakfast can be healthy and quick, increasing the odds your child will eat it.
Jill West, R.D.N., is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified health coach with a private practice in Lafayette. She works with women, families and student athletes to help them make lasting changes that improve their health and performance. Jill is a professional speaker and author of the book 400 Moms. To learn more, call 925-310-5545 or visit www.jillwestrd.com or www.400moms.com