My daughter will be starting middle school this year. Because I’ll be driving her to school, we’ll need to be out of the house an hour earlier than we’re used to. That’s why I’m already thinking about breakfast and what I can have on hand to make sure she has something healthy to eat even when we’re rushing around.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that breakfast is important. A healthy morning meal sets our kids up for sustained energy and focus that will keep them learning until lunchtime. But finding a breakfast that is quick and easy and healthy can be a challenge. So here are some of my ideas for quick, on-the-go breakfasts.
- Make breakfast bags.
Set up an assembly line on Sunday afternoon to make five breakfast bags for each child. Good fillers include fruit, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, dry cereal, granola bars and trail mix. Include a few different items to make a complete breakfast. Your child can eat it on the way to school. I also tuck a few extra granola bars in my daughter’s backpack for mornings when we run out of time and she forgets to grab breakfast to go.
- Have it already on the table.
Put out cereal, bananas, bowls and spoons the night before. Make sure the milk carton is at the front of the fridge. Instruct children to pour themselves some cereal and eat as soon as they get up. I’m unable to eat right after I wake up, but my daughter doesn’t usually have a problem with it.
- Put your freezer to work.
Make extra servings when you prepare breakfast on the weekends. Store individually-wrapped single servings in the freezer. You or your child can simply heat one in the microwave before school each morning. Simple breakfasts include sandwiches of ham and egg on English muffins or sausage links wrapped in a pancake. I plan on making a dozen breakfast sandwiches before school starts to store in the freezer. You could also place all the ingredients for a smoothie into a freezer bag, then drop them into a blender with a little milk or water the next morning.
- Rely on an old standard.
Peanut butter and jelly makes for a filling, healthy, kid-friendly and fast breakfast. Up the nutritional value by using low sugar jam and whole grain bread. Add a piece of fruit and a glass of milk to round out the meal. My daughter loves peanut butter and a banana rolled in a tortilla.
- Let them eat breakfast at school.
Most schools serve breakfast in the cafeteria for under $2 a meal. If ensuring your children get breakfast adds an extra layer of chaos to your morning, make sure they get to school early enough to eat there instead. This option often saves time and money. My daughter’s school allows parents to see what their child purchases online, so I know if she’s truly eating breakfast or just pocketing the money so she can buy ice cream at lunch.
With a little planning, you can be sure your child has a healthy breakfast, no matter how rushed you are.
Best Bets for Better Breakfasts
A few simple changes in food choices can transform your child’s morning meal into a healthier way to start the learning day.
Choose whole grains over refined flours. Foods like whole wheat bread and whole grain cereal contain the dietary fiber, B vitamins and minerals that can be missing from refined-grain products. Eating plenty of dietary fiber keeps digestion on track and lowers the risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Offer whole fruits instead of juice. The skin and pulp from whole fruit offers dietary fiber, carotenoids, flavonoids and vitamins not found in fruit juice. Foods rich in these vitamins and minerals help boost the immune system and support healthy development. Kids should try to get five servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
Add protein-rich foods like lean ham, nut butter, eggs or Greek yogurt to your child’s breakfast. Foods containing protein deliver amino acids for development, keep hunger at bay and help regulate blood sugar levels. Over the course of the day, kids should get about one gram of protein for every two pounds of body weight.
Water is essential for good circulation, digestion and cooling. It also helps transport nutrients throughout the body, so kids’ bodies can grow and their brains can think clearly. Besides needing extra water during exercise or on hot days, children up to age 8 need about one 8-ounce cup of water a day for every year of age (for example, a 4-year-old needs 4 cups of water). Kids ages 9 to 13 need about 64 ounces a day, and teens 14 to 18 need from 64 to 88 ounces a day.
Rachael Moshman is a freelance writer, wife and mother.