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Growing up in the 80’s, breakfast usually consisted of cereal: Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch (still my favorite!), and Honey Bunches of Oats. Today, so much has changed and although as parents we want meals to be easy and fast, we also need healthy breakfast ideas that are packed with protein, filled with fiber and have plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Another thing that’s changed over the years is that because of our kids’ dietary restrictions, food allergies, food preferences and picky eating behaviors, we as moms have found ourselves focused on things like:
So despite all of the choices we have, we’re all short on time (and patience!) and can’t sift through the tons of healthy breakfast recipes that will work for our kids. As a result, we tend to serve the same breakfasts day after day.
Nevertheless, the old adage, breakfast is the most important part of the day, still holds true today. So busting through the boredom and having healthy breakfast ideas you can put into rotation will help your kids thrive—and make your hectic life a bit easier.
Benefits of a healthy breakfast for kids
Serving up a healthy breakfast daily can:
- Give kids the nutrition the need for healthy growth and development
- Provide the energy they need at school
- Help them stay alert and focused
- Prevent weight gain, childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes
- Improve their mood and behavior
Kids who eat breakfast everyday have a higher daily consumption of key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron and iodine than those who skip breakfast, according to a August 2017 study in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Lower risk of weight gain and childhood obesity
According to a March 2016 study in the journal Pediatric Obesity, kids who ate breakfast at school, even if they already had breakfast at home, were less likely to be overweight or obese than those who didn’t eat breakfast.
Although I don’t think we should encourage our children to eat two breakfasts, eating even a small, healthy breakfast can go a long way.
Lower risk of type-2 diabetes
According to a September 2014 study in the journal PLOS Medicine, 9 and 10-year-old children who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 26 percent higher levels of insulin in their blood after a fasting period and 26 percent higher levels of insulin resistance, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes, than children who ate breakfast every day.
A healthy breakfast helps to balance your child’s blood sugar and give him a steady amount of energy until lunchtime.
Better mood, behavior and body image
You know the feeling when you’re hangry: you’re tired, irritable and on edge. And your kids are no different.
When kids skip breakfast, their energy and blood sugar dips, which affects their mood and behavior. If your kids are snappy with you, have frequent meltdowns or seem cranky, try feeding them a healthy breakfast.
What’s more, a February 2019 study in the journal Social Work In Public Health found teens who eat breakfast with their families have a stronger body image than those who skip the meal.
Improved academic performance
Kids need to eat a healthy breakfast because it’s nearly impossible to stay focused and concentrate on anything when you’re hungry.
Breakfast fuels their bodies with the key nutrients they need to listen, learn, understand, complete tasks and boost their overall function at school.
In fact, a June 2016 study in the journal Public Health Nutrition, which included 5,000 kids, found those who ate breakfast and those who ate a better quality breakfast, were twice as likely to do better in school than those who didn’t.
What should a healthy breakfast include?
I know it sounds like a pipe dream, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend kids eat vegetables at every meal and snack. Depending on your kid’s age, they need between 1 and 3 cups of vegetables a day.
Serving vegetables at breakfast is actually a great opportunity to teach kids what a healthy meal looks like. And the more opportunities they have to eat vegetables, the more likely they will.
When kids eat vegetables at breakfast, they’ll get the nutrition they need for their growth and development and to help prevent serious health conditions as they get older. Vegetables are also filled with fiber which will help them stay satiated and may prevent weight gain.
Fresh, whole fruit has plenty of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber and water which kids not only need to thrive, but promotes feelings of satiety and can prevent constipation.
Protein helps to build muscle, carry nutrients through the body, regulate hormones, and strengthen skin and bones. Making sure to include protein with breakfast staves off hunger, balances blood sugar and can prevent weight gain.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 50 percent of the grains we eat be made up of whole grains, which are a great source of B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and fiber. Unlike white, refined grains, whole grains do a better job of satisfying hunger and balancing your kid’s blood sugar levels.
We now know that fats are not the villain they were made out to be for years. Healthy fats like those found in fish, avocado and nuts are a vital source of energy for our kids and help satisfy their hunger.
Fats are essential for healthy cell membranes, they support kids’ brains and the growth and development of their nervous systems, and help their bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Fat are also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and they help regulate inflammation and metabolism.
Healthy breakfast ideas with eggs
With nearly 30 grams of protein in one large egg, plus several key nutrients like potassium, vitamin D, B vitamins, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids, eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids.
Boiling a batch of hard-boiled eggs in the beginning of the week is the ultimate time saver and ensures you’ll have a quick and healthy breakfast that’s also a great option when you’re rushing out the door in the morning. Pair eggs with veggies, a fruit and whole grain option and you’re set.
Egg muffin cups
The great thing about egg muffin cups is that you can make a batch and have a quick and easy option ready to go. You can also customize the egg muffins with leftover vegetables and your choice of meat and cheese—or none at all.
Frittata or quiche
Using eggs in a frittata, quiche or breakfast casserole is easy and a great way to serve vegetables for breakfast. Try this recipe: Broccoli, Cheddar & Spinach Frittata
A breakfast burrito with eggs, veggies and beans is a great healthy breakfast to have on hand.
Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber which will give your kids plenty of energy and brain power until lunch time. Also, the more often you serve them—at breakfast or at other meals—the more likely your kids will eat them.
Try putting out beans with their favorite extras: salsa, avocado, cheese and a whole wheat tortilla and let them make their own breakfast burrito.
Healthy breakfast ideas without eggs
Healthy overnight oats
Cooking oatmeal in the morning takes time but putting together individual mason jars of overnight oats takes just a few minutes. Start with rolled oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill) and add milk, fruit and chia seeds and you have a healthy and easy egg-free breakfast ready by the time your kids wake up.
Baked oatmeal is my (and my kids’) new favorite way to serve up a healthy breakfast. Instead of waiting for oatmeal to cook on the stovetop, you simply add your ingredients to a loaf pan, bake it the night before and you have breakfast for a few days. Try this recipe: Baked Oatmeal With Pumpkin and Bananas.
Healthy breakfast smoothies and smoothie bowls
I’m not a fan of pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into meals so kids will eat them, but when you make a green smoothie or a smoothie bowl, it’s no secret what they’re eating.
Smoothies are a great way to feed kids vegetables for breakfast and get several servings in at once. A good rule of thumb when making smoothies or juices is to use 80 percent vegetables and 20 percent fruit. Add protein like your kid’s favorite nut or seed butter and serve with whole grain toast.
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of calcium and protein and a parfait for breakfast couldn’t easier. Since most yogurt brands have plenty of added sugar, stick with plain Greek yogurt and add fresh fruit like raspberries and a low-sugar granola for extra fiber.
Related: How To Choose a Healthy Kids’ Yogurt
Avocado is chock full of nutrition, and high in fiber and healthy fats. When it’s paired with whole grain toast and vegetables and fruit, it also makes for a healthy and easy egg-free breakfast.
Grabbing a protein or breakfast bar is quick and simple, but most bars are high in sugar and contain artificial ingredients. Read labels carefully and look for those with protein, fiber and low sugar. Or, make your own breakfast bars with whole ingredients like oats, dried fruit and nuts or seeds.
Healthy breakfast pudding
Pumpkin is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids so I was so excited when—after interviewing Danielle Walker of AgainstAllGrain.com—I discovered her delicious recipe for Paleo Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding.
If you’re trying to avoid gluten or simply looking for new breakfast options, try it out. My kids loved it and it was so quick and easy to make.