Building a better breakfast

For “the most important meal of the day,” it’s surprisingly easy for breakfast to become full of filler-foods that don’t have much nutritional value. Breakfast definitely has the potential to be the best meal of the day, though, and if it is, it’ll give your little one the energy to zoom off into the rest of the day – and give you enough energy to (almost!) keep up.

Give breakfast a nutritional makeover

Everybody loves a good breakfast food – there’s a reason “breakfast for dinner” sounds so catchy, but “dinner for breakfast” just doesn’t sound that good. Still, many of the classic breakfast foods, from pancakes and waffles to breakfast sandwiches to bowls of cereal, have the potential to be less-than-totally-healthy. There are plenty of ways to add some extra nutrients to any number of different breakfast foods, though, which is a great way to get the day off to an energetic, well-fed start!

  • Whole grains: While it’s easy to slide into the simple carb trap with white bread, and white flour in pancakes, and processed grains in cereals, it’s just as easy to shift in the other direction. Whole grain bread and whole grain cereal don’t have to be boring: you can jazz them up with unusual grains like millet, quinoa, whole oats, or barley, as well as wheat. Whole grains tend to digest more slowly, which leaves kids feeling full longer, and helps them keep more steady blood sugar throughout the day, instead of bouncing way up and way down as they process the carbs.
  • Protein: Starting the day with protein is a great way to stay full longer, and to start out with plenty of energy. Eggs and lean meats like turkey bacon are a great way to add more protein into breakfast, but if you’re in a little bit more of a rush than that, adding peanut butter or other nut butter, or a side of Greek yogurt, can add a protein-boost, too.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Fruits are the more traditional morning choice, but vegetables are just as capable of adding a little extra something to your morning routine, and they’re great for adding fiber and diverse nutrients without bringing the sugar content of the meal up. Pretty much any vegetable can get thrown into an omelet, and leafy greens or bright peppers can blend into fruit smoothies without much fuss. Avocado and tomatoes both make great toppers for toast, and when it comes to more traditionally fruit-like fruits, like apples, pears, oranges, berries, mangos, or anything that’s in season in your area, they generally don’t need to be added to anything. Fruit that’s cut into safe, bite-sized pieces makes a great standalone addition to breakfast, but they also make great smoothies, great additions to yogurt, and a nice addition to pancakes or cereal.

Take the hurry out of the morning rush

One of the biggest obstacles that can get in the way of a breakfast’s nutritional content is the need to get the day started, whether that means getting everybody out the door for work, school, or daycare, or just getting the hungry masses on their feet and ready to play. Healthy breakfasts can still be quick and easy, though, especially with a little forward planning. Doing most of the prep work the night before can make breakfast time move more quickly and smoothly than any meal of the day. You can chop fruit or vegetables the night before, mix up pancake batter to leave in the refrigerator overnight, or even start overnight oatmeal in a crock pot.

  • Mary L. Gavin. “Breakfast Basics.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, July 2015. Web.
  • “4 tips for better breakfasts.” EatRight. American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, December 2013. Web.
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