Parents want to provide healthy breakfast options for their kids, but it can be difficult to know what to serve. Mornings are often busy. Parents are rushing to work and kids rushing to school, so serving a healthy breakfast option can be a struggle. Putting a little extra effort into your breakfast routine can make a huge difference for your child!
Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day, after all. After a long night of sleep, choosing healthy foods to start the day off well can really impact a child’s energy level, concentration, mood, and other food choices later in the day. And while we may be tempted to settle for convenient breakfast options often marketed for children, we must remember that we are shaping our children’s long-term patterns around eating. We can probably all agree a healthy breakfast is important- but what exactly makes up a healthy breakfast?
I’ve heard it said before that slow food is good food. I think the meaning here is that slow food is likely more nutritious than convenient, ready made, or processed food. While I can agree that is true, I don’t always have time for slow food, or really slow anything. But when I consider the many foods marketed to parents as great breakfast food options for their children I am concerned. Foods such as breakfast bars, granola bars, cereals, and toaster pastries are typically high in sugar and refined carbs and severely lacking in nutritional value. Marketing for these foods is often misleading.
When I try to read nutrition labels I am easily overwhelmed. Sometimes it feels so impossible to feed our children…healthy food….three times a day. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. One way I have been able to cut down my stress is to try to mainly buy whole, real foods. I’ve crafted a good list of basic healthy breakfast item ingredients, and have actually enjoyed the challenge of finding a variety of ways to serve this nutritious food to my children. Breakfast has now turned into a pretty easy meal for me to find food that I feel confident giving my children. And it feels good to know that my kids are regularly eating a variety of healthy foods for breakfast.
So, let’s start with focusing on what ARE the important ingredients for a healthy breakfast for kids!
What constitutes a healthy breakfast?
Breakfast is an important meal because it sets the tone for the day. My mom friends and I always joke that when our kids eat cereal for breakfast they are usually hungry (or should I say hangry) within the next hour! Why is that? Well, the extra sugar added in most cereals gives our children quick energy that is unfortunately quickly depleted. So when we think about a healthy breakfast we want to think about what will nourish our child and give them energy for all the learning, growing, and moving they will do throughout the day. When planning for your child’s breakfast meals, think about protein, complex carbohydrates like whole grains, and healthy fats.
What’s in a healthy breakfast?
Proteins are important because they act as the building blocks for our bodies- they are a vital nutrient! Proteins are essential for our muscles, hair, skin, organs, as a source of energy for our bodies, and so much more! We need proteins to help our bodies grow, develop, restore, and repair. A child’s need for protein as part of a healthy diet is extra important as their bodies are growing and developing significantly as they mature. If you aren’t sure how much protein your child should be consuming, the USDA has a helpful table with recommended daily serving sizes based off of age range, located here Protein Foods | MyPlate. The website includes a table showing ounce equivalents for foods such as nuts and seeds, beans, and eggs which is a helpful tool as you try to plan healthy meals.
Whole grains and other complex carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are essential for our bodies, and allow both our brain and body to function. Complex carbohydrates fuel our bodies for longer because they take longer to digest. The slow release of energy over time allows our body’s blood sugar levels to remain stable, which is important to manage hunger cravings and mood. Many foods that have complex carbs contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber as well!
In our diet-obsessed culture, “fats” get an ugly name. But the reality is that fats are an essential part of a healthy breakfast (or any meal!) for kids. Fats are needed for body and brain development, and are needed to help our constantly growing children to feel full.
Healthy Breakfast Building Blocks
Protein sources- breakfast edition
A great protein source for children is eggs. The great thing about eggs is how much variety they allow! There are so many different ways to prepare them, so you can be almost certain to find something your child will like!
Yogurt is a great healthy breakfast choice for kids and also high in protein. Be aware that Greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt. I recommend plain unsweetened Greek yogurt, but if you choose something different do read the nutrition label carefully. Check the amount of protein (a good Greek yogurt can contain 15 to 20 grams of protein in an 8 ounce container). Also check sugar content, as some yogurt brands are notorious for adding a significant amount of sugar.
Whole grains and complex carbs sources- breakfast edition
Fruit and vegetables are both great additions for a healthy breakfast for our kids. I always feel great about my mom skills when my kids start the day off with vegetables as part of their breakfast! I’ve noticed that they eat their vegetables much better in the morning, too.
Oatmeal is an excellent healthy breakfast choice for kids! Like eggs, oatmeal can be prepared in many different ways. You can easily add seeds, nuts, nut butters, fruit, and so much more to get added protein and healthy fats. Every child can find a combination that they enjoy eating!
Whole grain breads or waffles
Healthy Fat sources- breakfast edition
Nuts, seeds, milk, yogurt, avocado- all of these are natural fat sources!
Healthy Breakfast Ideas
Top 5 Quick Healthy Breakfast Ideas
- Egg in a hole on whole wheat bread (my 2 year old loves to help prepare this one).
- Yogurt parfait topped with fruit, nuts, and chia
- Oatmeal (try with nut spreads, nuts, seeds, pumpkin puree, apple chunks, etc)
- Avocado toast with egg
- Vegetable omelet
Top 5 Make ahead Healthy Breakfast Ideas
- Overnight oats (my children love carrot cake overnight oats and I love getting in a whole serving of vegetables at breakfast time)
- Oat bake
- Whole grain waffle sticks
- Egg and veggie bake
- Turkey and tomato whole wheat bagel sandwich
Top 5 Healthy Eat on-the-go Breakfast ideas
- Breakfast Burrito (we usually keep a stash in the freezer)
- Breakfast Cookies
- Egg and veggie muffins
- Energy Bites
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