Mornings are tough, especially with kids. We’re all familiar with groggy requests to sleep in, frustrations over having nothing to wear, and toddlers who have tantrums if you rush them. Given the time crunch we face, it’s not surprising that breakfast is often an afterthought. Families regularly opt for the convenience of a cereal bar on the go. In fact, many studies suggest that by adolescence, upwards of one in three kids routinely skip breakfast altogether.
Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day.
Children who eat breakfast have healthier BMIs, more energy, decreased hyperactivity, increased concentration and superior cognitive performance at school. They also tend to make healthier lifestyle choices, such as opting for better food selections throughout the day and engaging in routine physical fitness.
Breakfast also makes a difference in overall nutrient intake, getting kids closer to meeting age-appropriate nutrition goals without a multivitamin. In 2010, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that breakfast eaters consumed fewer unhealthy fats and more dietary fiber over the course of a day. Further, micronutrients are optimized. The 2003 National Diet and Nutrition Survey of Young People found that Iron, B vitamins and Vitamin D were at least 20 to 60 percent higher in kids who ate breakfast.
So how do we provide our kids the benefit of a morning meal? Consider the following kid-approved recipes as a start. You can easily plan a week of simple, tasty breakfasts at home using the meal ideas that follow. All the recipes are prepared ahead of the morning rush and can be served in minutes. Enjoying these meals together at the table is a great goal, but when you’re pressed for time these breakfasts can be packed for school or daycare.
Sarah’s Hearty Slow-Cooker Oatmeal*
This slow-cooker recipe is assembled in less than five minutes the night before, leaving nothing to do in the morning but ladle out a bowl of hearty goodness. The best part: You control the additives based on preferences and dietary needs. You also control the amount of sweetener, unlike instant oatmeal packets that can be high in sugar. Be sure to use steel-cut oats, not old-fashioned or quick oats.
1 cup steel-cut (or Irish) oats
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
4 cups milk or water (or any combination of milk, dairy alternative such as almond milk, and water — as long as the liquid portions equal 4 cups)
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 to 3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried fruits or 2 ripe, mashed bananas
Sweetener such as 1/3 cup maple syrup or 1/3 cup brown sugar
- Add steel-cut oats, flax seed and liquid ingredients to crock-pot. Stir to combine.
- Add any optional add-ins to the mixture, stirring to combine
- Cook on low, overnight, for 7 to 8 hours, or on high for 4 hours.
- Stir just before serving; ladle into bowls.
- Add any desired toppings, and enjoy!
*Can be sent to school or daycare in a thermos.
Homemade Honey-Almond Granola With Yogurt
Makes 4 cups
Making granola can be a simple weekend task that leads to many mornings of easy, yet satisfying, breakfasts. Vanilla yogurt is an excellent source of calcium for children’s growing bones, and granola is high in fiber — making this breakfast a powerful start to the day.
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup almonds (or other raw nut), chopped by hand or with a food processer
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup dried fruits (anything from the pantry will do, but chop it if the pieces are large)
1/2 cup coconut flakes
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
- Mix together all dry ingredients (and optional add-ins) in a large bowl.
- Add honey and coconut oil to a small saucepan, and heat over low heat, stirring until the coconut oil liquefies and combines with the honey (in warmer climates coconut oil may already be liquid, but in cooler climates the oil is stable as a solid). Add vanilla and almond extracts, and stir to combine.
- Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients, and stir to fully coat the oats.
- Press the sticky mixture into a parchment-lined baking sheet, taking care to endure a thin, evenly distributed layer.
- Bake for ten minutes until the granola is slightly browned.
- Remove from the oven, and allow to cool completely.
- Remove granola from the pan using your hands to break it into manageable clusters.
- Granola can then be stored in an airtight container for up to a week, or in the freezer.
Oven-Baked Egg Cups*
12 toddler servings or 6 adult/older kid servings
This recipe creates adorable, handheld egg cups. It’s a great way to optimize protein intake and sneak in some morning veggies. The cups can be made in advance and stored for up to four days in the fridge. A simple reheat in the oven or microwave makes for an effortless breakfast. Pair with whole-grain toast for a very satisfying meal. It’s another easily modifiable recipe that can be veggie-packed for those with adventurous palates or be simple, egg-only cups for more picky eaters. Get creative with this recipe!
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped veggies such as peppers, spinach and tomatoes
Egg, chopped peppers and Mexican-blend shredded cheese
Egg, tomato, chopped, fresh basil and shredded mozzarella
Egg, spinach and shredded cheddar
- Preheat over to 350°F.
- Generously spray a nonstick, 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.
- Whisk eggs in a bowl (ideally a bowl you can easily pour from).
- Pour egg into muffin-tin wells, taking care to distribute liquid evenly so that each cup is 1/2 to 3/4 the way full.
- Add in desired ingredients, stirring each cup after additions, being careful not to overfill the wells.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove tin from the oven and allow it to cool, slightly.
- Loosen the edges of the egg cups, and slide out of the tin.
- Serve immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to four days.
*Individual cups can be warmed and wrapped in foil for school or daycare.
Sarah R. Kiser, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC, has more than a decade of experience in pediatric nursing. She practices in Massachusetts as the exclusive PNP of an independent boarding and day school for girls, grades 5 to 12. Her blog is at www.kidshealthwithsarah.com.