You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Breakfast has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease, and even to better performance in school. Kids who eat breakfast also may be able to control their appetite better, possibly contributing to a healthier weight.
The biggest breakfast challenge, according to Happy Family Nutrition Advisor, Amy Marlow, is finding the space in a hectic morning schedule to get everyone off to a healthy start. She suggests these five strategies for serving your family an easy and healthy morning meal:
1. Think outside the (cereal) box. Don’t limit yourself to “breakfast food.” Toddlers don’t know that a turkey burger isn’t standard breakfast fare! Serve up hummus with toast triangles for dipping, or a turkey sandwich. Throw a piece of fruit on the plate and voila: breakfast.
2. Pancake it! Though we adults eat pancakes on a plate with a knife and fork, they are actually a great grab-and-go finger-food for toddlers and kids! Plus, few breakfast foods allow you to stuff more nutrients inside. Add oats or ground flaxseed or other grains and seeds to add fiber, vitamins and minerals. Mix in fruit purees instead of melted butter or oil. Try this recipe for Mega Pancakes.
3. Include protein. Protein helps lengthen the amount of a time a child will feel satisfied after a meal. Here are some easy ideas: Give a cup of milk (cow’s or soy), melt a slice of cheese on a slice of whole grain bread, make a yogurt parfait topped with fresh or frozen fruit, make a sandwich with nut butter and fruit preserves. If you’re more ambitious, make a quiche with egg, cheese and veggies (this freezes well too!).
4. Sip, sip hooray! If you have a blender, you have a powerful breakfast tool. Make a smoothie with yogurt or milk (cow’s, soy, almond…any of them!) and fruit (fresh or frozen). If you really want a nutrient boost add a vegetable like spinach or beets, a grain like wheat germ or ground chia seeds, or even peanut butter! Serve in a straw cup with a lid so you can take it on the go if you have to run out the door. Convenient, portable Shakes like Happy Child’s new Organic Super Nutrition Shake are also a perfect healthy breakfast choice. They don’t need to be refrigerated so they’re also a great, balanced solution when you’re packing lunches or snacks for on the go.
5. Make ahead –Reduce your morning workload by preparing breakfast in advance. Make a double batch of pancakes on the weekend and save half to serve during the week. Put the ingredients for your smoothie into the blender the night before and keep in the fridge until morning. I’ve even been known to cook a pot of oatmeal and keep it in the refrigerator for a few days! To reheat, add a touch of milk and heat, covered, on the stove or in the microwave.
Do you have any tips to share for a fast, easy, healthy breakfast?