I don’t have school-age kids anymore, but I definitely remember how hard it was after I got them dressed, packed their backpacks, and brushed their teeth to get them to eat something, anything! (Please!) It became even more difficult as they entered adolescence and timed getting out of bed, putting on clean clothes, and getting out the door until the last possible second.
A quick bowl of whole grain cereal or banana slices smeared with peanut butter—my granddaughter Greta’s preschool favorite breakfast—are two easy solutions, but they come as kids get older: You have to make them sit down for the whole thing.
Unfortunately, skipping breakfast among children and teens is more common than you might hope. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that about 14% of children ages 6 to 11 and 17% of teens ages 12 to 19 regularly head to class on an empty stomach.
It gets worse as they get older. The CDC found that 75% of teens surveyed in fall 2021 said they don’t eat breakfast daily, up from 66.9% in 2019.
The plain fact is that children who eat breakfast perform better in school. Studies show that breakfast eaters tend to show up more often, be late less often and suffer from stomach aches caused by hunger less often.
“It’s very difficult to focus, retain knowledge, and really learn when you’re hungry,” says Judy Seibert, a registered dietitian at West Virginia University’s Medical Weight Management Clinic at J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital. “The brain only uses glucose for energy, so if that level is low, it is very difficult to learn and retain new concepts.”
Behaviors are also a concern. We’re more likely to act out when we’re hungry (hungry!), says Seibert, who is also a consulting dietitian at Head Start.
It is also important what you break your fast with. You want all the macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) in every meal, she says. Sugary cereals – which light up the reward center in our brains – are no longer considered a good start to the day. Any cereal that contains more than 6 grams of sugar per ounce falls into the “sweet” category.
So what is the plan for success?
If you have something nutritious on the counter or in the fridge that they can grab when they run out the door, there’s a good chance you’ll win the school day breakfast battle.
It’s important to think about how you’re nourishing your kids’ bodies every morning, Seibert says. They should eat something that doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar, then do a nose dip after 90 minutes. Instead, start your day eating carbohydrates, high-quality protein, and healthy fats.
Tested by PG
These low-calorie egg cups can be prepared the night before and heated in the microwave. Add any favorite protein and/or veggies or cheese. I made half of it with bacon and cheddar cheese and the other half with cooked, crumbled breakfast sausage and diced red peppers.
Non-stick frying pan spray
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
12 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces grated or grated cheddar cheese
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 300 degrees. Generously spray the wells of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick pan spray.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until crisp and browned, 6-8 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pan using a slotted spoon and allow it to cool.
Crack the eggs into a large bowl and add the milk, salt and pepper. Beat until the mixture is homogeneous and there are no streaks of unincorporated egg whites. Add cooked bacon and cheddar cheese.
Distribute the mixture evenly into the muffin tin holes, filling them about three-quarters of the way. Bake until the egg pieces are puffed and the tops no longer look soggy, 25-30 minutes. (They will puff up considerably in the oven, but collapse once they cool.)
Leave it to cool a little, then remove it from the pan using a flat spoon or butter knife. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Enough to prepare 12 large egg cups or 24 small eggs.
– Adapted from allrecipes.com
Yogurt parfait with homemade granola
Tested by PG
Yogurt parfait is a quick and healthy breakfast for busy mornings. They eat four food groups: fruit, dairy, protein, and grains. I used fresh raspberries and strawberries, but any fruit (fresh or frozen) works: bananas, grapes, raspberries, pineapple, or mango. Granola can be packed for an after-school snack.
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cup raw nuts and/or seeds, such as cashews, pecans, walnuts, or pepitas
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
A generous sprinkle of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup dried fruit, such as raisins or dried cranberries and cherries
For yogurt cups
3 cups of plain, low-fat or vanilla yogurt
1 cup of chopped strawberries
1 cup blueberries
Prepare granola: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts and/or seeds, salt and cinnamon. Stir the mixture well.
Add oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Stir well until all the oats and nuts are lightly coated. Pour the granola mixture into the prepared pan and spread it in an even layer.
Bake until slightly golden, about 24 minutes, stirring halfway through. We take it out of the mold and leave it to cool completely, then add the dried fruits to it. The granola will become more crunchy as it cools. You should end up with about 8 cups of granola — more than enough to allow for snacks as well.
Preparing yogurt cups. Place 1/3 cup of yogurt in the bottom of 4 tall glasses. Top with strawberries, raspberries, and a spoon or two of granola. Alternate layers of fruit and granola with yogurt until cups are filled to the top.
Serve the parfait immediately to keep the granola crunchy.
– Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette
Quick and easy banana muffins
Tested by PG
These super moist muffins take advantage of ripe, brown bananas. They can be made in a regular cupcake pan, or in a mini cupcake pan for little ones’ appetites. I added chocolate chips to half the amount. If your kids love nuts, add a handful of toasted walnuts or pecans.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted with a spoon and flattened
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
Salt 1/2 teaspoon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cup mashed bananas (about 4 medium bananas or 3 large ripe bananas)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup walnuts, pecans, or chocolate chips, as desired
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 12-piece muffin pan with nonstick spray or use cupcake liners.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Sit aside. In a large bowl or blender bowl, mash the bananas. On medium speed, beat or beat the melted butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and milk.
Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, then whisk or whisk until combined. If you added nuts or chocolate chips, fold them in now. The dough will be thick
Pour the dough into molds, then fill them to the top. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees, then, with the cakes in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for an additional 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Total baking time is 21-23 minutes, give or take. (For mini muffins, bake for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees.
Leave the muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue cooling.
Makes 12 muffins.
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Pancakes are much easier than pancakes because you can make them in advance and simply heat them in the toaster the morning you need them. In addition to serving it on top, fresh berries are stirred into the mixture for a touch of sweetness.
1 cup berries, plus additional amounts for serving if desired
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
Maple syrup, butter, fruit or yogurt, for serving
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and set a baking tray covered with parchment paper or a wire rack aside.
Cut the berries in half with kitchen shears or mash them slightly with a fork.
Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.
Mix the butter, eggs, vanilla and milk in a separate bowl and gently add them to the flour mixture. Stir in mashed berries.
Preheat the waffle iron and cook according to the manufacturer’s directions. (I used my trusty mini waffle maker from Target.) If more than one person is sitting down to breakfast or running out the door, keep the waffles warm in the preheated oven on the prepared baking sheet until you’ve cooked all the batter.
Serve warm with syrup, butter, nut butter, fruit or yoghurt and additional berries.
Makes 12 waffles.