Shape Up America!™ dietitian Adrienne and chef Joanna team up with tips and kid-friendly recipes for a healthy breakfast

Start the school day with a healthy breakfast

With school in full swing and the morning rush a part of the weekday routine for many families, it may be tempting to find short cuts to help your child get to school on time. One thing you don’t want to skimp on is breakfast.

Why is breakfast so important for children?

  • Breakfast refuels the body after a long night of sleeping. Like a car that needs gas to run, the body needs fuel from a healthy breakfast to power it through the day.
  • Breakfast may help children concentrate more in school, get higher test grades and have better school attendance.
  • Breakfast eaters are likely to have better overall nutrition than breakfast skippers. A healthy breakfast provides important nutrients such as calcium, iron, B vitamins and fiber.
  • Some research suggests that children who eat breakfast, particularly ready-to-eat cereal, tend to have healthier body weights than those who skip breakfast.

What happens if children skip breakfast?

  • Without breakfast, children (and adults, too) may become super hungry and overeat the next chance they get, especially on high-fat and high-sugar foods like candy and chips. That could make it harder for them to maintain a healthy weight.
  • They may lose focus on their school subjects and have less energy to play during recess or after school.
  • They are less likely to make up for nutrients missed by not eating a healthy breakfast.

What’s a good breakfast for children?

A nutritionally balanced breakfast can give your child energy to last throughout the morning. Ideally, it should include foods from all five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains (mostly whole grains), protein and dairy (low-fat). If that is not realistic, then try to have foods from at least three of the five food groups, such as whole-grain, low-sugar cereal with fruit and low-fat milk. If your child does not want a full breakfast first thing in the morning, then provide a midmorning snack that includes food from more than one food group.

Keep in mind that breakfast does not have to be typical breakfast foods. If your child prefers leftovers from last night’s dinner, such as vegetable soup with whole grain crackers, macaroni and cheese, or a veggie burger, that is fine too.

Help make breakfast a part of your child’s morning routine. Set a good example and eat breakfast with them. Here are some family-friendly ideas for a healthy breakfast. We’ve broken them down by how much time it takes to prepare. Recipes are created by Shape Up America! chef Joanna.

Dashing-out-the-door breakfasts

Try these grab-and-go breakfasts. To save time in the morning, pack it up the night before and hand the bag to your child on the way out the door. Note: Prepare the muffin and cookie recipes in advance and store in the refrigerator or freezer; then put one serving in a sandwich bag the night before so it’s ready to go in the morning.

  • Trail mix of dried fruit, nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seed kernels, dry cereal
  • 1 stick reduced-fat string cheese with whole wheat crackers and an apple or banana
  • P B & J Muffins with a single-serve box of UHT milk (UHT or ultra high temperature milk does not need to be refrigerated before opening)
  • Breakfast Cookies, with a single-serve box of UHT milk

Super quick sit-down breakfasts

  • Half cup of 100% juice and whole-grain, low-sugar cereal such as Cheerios®, Kix®, Corn Chex® or Rice Chex® with low-fat milk, almond milk or soy milk
  • Plain oatmeal (microwave for 2 minutes) sprinkled with cinnamon or topped with raisins, nuts, sunflower seeds or blueberries, with low-fat milk
  • Overnight Steel-Cut Oats, with low-fat milk
  • Yogurt parfait made with low-fat yogurt and berries and topped with granola
  • Peanut butter on a banana, with low-fat milk
  • Sandwich such as grilled cheese or peanut butter with 100% fruit spread on whole-grain toast, with low-fat milk

Breakfast in less than 10 (minutes)

For days when you have a little time to prepare a meal, try these recipes that take under 10 minutes to prepare. You may want to have a slice of whole-grain toast or a glass of low-fat milk or soy milk with some of these breakfasts.

Time-to-relax breakfasts

Try these ideas on less hectic school days, weekends or when there’s time to prepare and enjoy a leisurely family breakfast. You may want to add a cup of sliced fruit and a glass of low-fat milk, soy milk or almond milk to round out these meals. Note: For the pancake recipes, you can store any extra pancakes in the refrigerator or freezer for a quick breakfast when you’re short on time.

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