Make a Healthy Breakfast for Your Busy Family
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason. Start the morning off right by fueling your family with a healthy breakfast.
Getting yourself and the kids out the door in the morning can be a struggle, and fixing a healthy breakfast tends to be the first thing on the compromise list. It may seem easier to just pour a bowl of cereal, but the benefits of making time for a nutritious breakfast outweigh the convenience of the fast and easy options. Here's what to look for, what to avoid and what to serve your family to really get their engines running. You don't need hours -- just a few extra minutes in the morning (or even the night before!) will make all the difference.
What You Don't Need
Skip the sugar -- seriously. Jill Castle, a childhood nutrition expert and co-author of Fearless Feeding, says that refined sugar bumps up your blood sugar, which can create problems later in the day. "If you don't have fiber or protein or healthy fats there to sustain that blood sugar level, it can crash in an hour or two," she says. Kids need a healthy breakfast to give them sustained energy for their day at school, or else they'll want a nap before the lunch bell rings.
Lauren O'Connor, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutri-Savvy, says there are other ingredients besides sugar to beware of in processed breakfast foods. "These products are often loaded with artificial dyes, chemicals and additives, such as the synthetic preservative BHA," she says. "These artificial substances don't have any positive effect on the body and its metabolism." Do your kids a favor, and skip the processed breakfast foods altogether.
What You Do Need
Castle and O'Connor agree that there are three components essential to a healthy breakfast. The meal should:
- Be low in sugar.
- Be built around a protein source -- it fuels the body more efficiently than the empty carbohydrates found in many breakfast cereals.
- Include a serving of fiber for intestinal health.
Convenient proteins to consider for busy mornings are eggs, turkey sausage, deli meat, Greek yogurt, cheese, and beans. Castle suggests adding fiber, such as nuts or no-sugar-added cereal, to Greek yogurt. If you're looking for something sweeter, fruit is another fiber-rich addition to yogurt. These options pack the protein punch that your family needs, along with a healthy dose of fiber for a happy gut. Or, do as O'Connor suggests and top whole-grain toast with an egg and heart-healthy avocado or tomato for a breakfast sandwich that has everything your kids need to start the day off well.
Healthy Breakfast Options
Just because your breakfast is healthy doesn't mean it can't be convenient. With a little prep ahead of time by you or your nanny, you can still get your family an energy-rich meal in record time. Castle and O'Connor suggest:
- Mini quiches. Scramble eggs and cheese with a bit of spinach and mushroom before baking in a mini muffin tin. Refrigerate and reheat in the morning, or pop them in the freezer for long-term storage.
- Whole-grain waffles. Swap white flour for wheat when you make a big batch of waffles on the weekend. Freeze, then toast in the morning before spreading on peanut butter for protein.
- Greek yogurt parfait. Start with fresh fruit (such as blueberries or sliced strawberries) on the bottom, sprinkle with nuts, seeds, or oats, and top with plain Greek nonfat or low-fat yogurt. Layer this in a lidded container or jar for breakfast-to-go.
- Overnight oatmeal. The night before you need breakfast on the go, mix oats with low-fat milk or an unsweetened dairy alternative. Add nuts or seeds, and top with chopped fruit (or seal fruit in a separate container to mix in when ready to serve). Refrigerate in a covered container, where the oats will absorb the liquid overnight and won't need to be cooked in the morning.
Want more quick breakfast ideas? Check out 4 Quick Breakfasts for Kids On-the-Go.
Morgan Hagey is a writer and mom of six living in the woods of New Hampshire.