Parents are beginning to again contemplate carpools, homework and how to keep hectic mornings moving smoothly. Because we shouldn't send our kids off to school without a healthful meal, we should start contemplating breakfast, too. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, two-thirds of teenage girls and half of teenage boys don't eat breakfast, even though it has proven to be essential to help them focus and maintain energy levels in school. Let's move our kids, no matter what age, into the habit of beginning their days healthfully.
There are three key nutrients that make up a wholesome breakfast.
Provides concentrated energy for the body
Constructs the brain
Keeps the body satisfied longer
Builds the brain
Slows absorption of other parts of the meal, keeping the body satisfied longer
Reduces risk of heart disease
Keeps the body full longer
Where to start
Serve any of these items with a side of fruit for a healthful breakfast.
Scrambled (add veggies)
Egg nest: whole grain toast with an egg fried in a hole in the middle
Breakfast burrito: scrambled eggs and cheese in a whole-grain wrap
Frittata (Make in advance and heat up a slice, or make as muffins so they're easy to reheat, grab and go.)
Green eggs and ham (Chop a handful of spinach into tiny pieces and toss with eggs before scrambling. Serve with a side of nitrate-free bacon or ham.)
Start with a frozen banana
Add any combination of fresh or frozen fruit (berries, pineapple, mango, cherries)
For added nutrition, throw in a handful of greens (spinach, kale)
Makes 8 to 12 wedges
This chewy, crunchy, gluten-free snack is made with all whole foods, no additives, no soy, no genetically modified ingredients, and no chemical proteins or chemical preservatives.
MAKE AHEAD: The wedges can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days. From Casey Seidenberg of Washington-based Nourish Schools LLC.
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats, such as Bob's Red Mill
1 cup raw sunflower seeds (may substitute chopped raw nuts)
1 cup brown rice cereal
1/2 cup honey
1 cup dried fruit, such as raisins, blueberries, chopped apricots or unsweetened cranberries
Pinch kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Have a large rimmed baking sheet at hand. Use cooking oil spray to grease a 9-inch round cake pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper.
Combine the oats, seeds and cereal in a mixing bowl. Spread on the baking sheet. Toast for about 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. The mixture should be fragrant. Cool.
Heat the honey in a large saucepan over medium-high heat without stirring for 2 to 4 minutes, until bubbles form. Remove from the heat, then quickly stir in the oat mixture. Add the dried fruit and salt; stir to incorporate thoroughly.
Use a spatula to spread the mixture in the cake pan. Press firmly to create an even layer. Cool for 30 minutes in the refrigerator, then dislodge and lift out the granola round; the parchment paper will help. Cut into wedges, discarding the paper.
NUTRITION Per piece (based on 12): 180 calories, 4 g protein, 30 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 35 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 12 g sugar
(Reporting by Casey Seidenberg, special to The Washington Post)
For protein: 1 tablespoon nut butter, a handful of raw cashews or sunflower seeds, or ½ cup plain yogurt
For a creamier texture: ½ cup almond milk or coconut milk
Add water if needed until it blends smoothly
Nuts and seeds:
Banana spread with nut butter
Breakfast quesadilla: whole-grain tortilla spread with nut butter and sliced berries
Almond pancakes or waffles (make a big batch over the weekend and reheat in the toaster)
Pre-soaked oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice or millet topped with honey or maple syrup and fruit (soak your grain in the fridge overnight and then just heat up)
Whole-grain muffins (make on Sunday for the week)
Oatmeal pancakes (make a big batch over the weekend and reheat in toaster during the week)
Yogurt parfait with fruit and nuts or granola
Sweet potato pancakes
Smoked salmon and mascarpone or cream cheese on sliced bread
A piece of whole-grain toast with sliced avocado sprinkled with salt and pepper
Nitrate-free turkey or chicken sausage
Packaged breakfasts: What to consider
If a packaged breakfast is the only option, here are some things to consider, along with my rundown of the most healthful options based on those criteria.
1. Whole-grain flour should be the first ingredient after water
2. No trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil
3. Low in sugar (less than 5 grams)
4. Low in sodium (less than 360 mg)
5. High in fiber (3 or more grams)
6. Free of artificial dyes (often used for golden coloring)
7. Think about your toppings. Try fresh fruit, nuts, grade B pure maple syrup.
Best: Vans 8 Whole Grains, Kashi 7 Grain, Nature's Path Ancient Grain, 365 Multigrain
Cereals that are made with whole grains in their original form, such as oats, millet, muesli or low-sugar granola, are the most healthful. There is controversy about the extrusion process that manipulates grains into shapes and puffs to make cereal. Some studies have shown that the high-heat process inactivates raw food enzymes, denatures proteins and simplifies starches, too many of which can contribute to diabetes. So the best bet is to stick with the whole grain.
According to a recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, 47 brand-name boxed cereals have more sugar than a Twinkie or three Chips Ahoy cookies, including the seemingly wholesome General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios, Wheaties Fuel, Kellogg's Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisps. Twinkies for breakfast? No way!
1. "Whole" grain should be the first ingredient
2. No trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil
3. Low in sugar: at most 8 grams, ideally less than 5
4. 3 or more grams of fiber
5. Low sodium
Best: Purely Elizabeth, Nature's Path Organics, Dorset, Kind, Udi's, Go Raw, Back to Nature
If these brands are too pricey for your family, the EWG also rated big-brand cereals. These ranked highest for nutrition: Post Shredded Wheat, Post Grape-Nuts Flakes, Post Bran Flakes, Kellogg's Mini-Wheats
Like boxed cereal, many granola bars have as much sugar and chemical ingredients as a packaged dessert, so pay attention to the ingredient list.
1. Ingredients should be all or mostly whole foods such as raw seeds, nuts and dried fruit
2. A whole grain, nut or seed should be the first ingredient
3. No trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil
4. Less than 10 grams of sugar
5. 3 or more grams of fiber
6. Low sodium
Best: Kind, Lara (some varieties are higher in sugar but are made from all whole foods), 18 Rabbits, Kashi (some of the flavors are lower in sugar than others and have fewer ingredients; look for these), ProBar