By Alyson Lawrence, clinical dietitian at CHOC
With school back in session, it’s the perfect time to review the importance of eating a good breakfast before starting the school day.
Ever heard of the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”?
This statement does have some truth to it. Research has shown kids who eat a good breakfast perform better in school. Since the brain uses the most energy out of any organ in the body, a good breakfast is just as equally important as arriving to school on time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that children who eat breakfast before school have improved memory and concentration during classes.
How to build a well-balanced breakfast for kids
Breakfast should consist of items from a few different food groups; aim to include three to four different food groups at breakfast time, like:
• Fruits or vegetables
• Dairy (such as yogurt or milk)
• Healthy fats (such as avocado or peanut butter)
Having a variety of foods from multiple different food groups will help your child stay full for longer, so they can focus on their schoolwork.
Foods to limit at breakfast time for kids
Avoid filling up on simple sugars such as juice, sugary cereals or highly processed items. These items contain refined carbohydrates and added sugars that can result in an energy crash in the middle of the morning. Try the following swaps instead.
Instead of juice, try 2% or skim milk and fruit-infused water.
Juice contains added sugars. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than four ounces of juice per day for toddlers and four to six ounces per day for older children.
Instead of donuts, try whole wheat toast.
Fried foods like donuts contain saturated fats which are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Instead, opt for a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and banana or whole wheat toast with avocado and chia seeds.
Instead of pop tarts, try homemade granola bars.
Did you know that toaster pastries contain over half the recommended daily value for added sugars? Instead, homemade granola bars can be a perfect grab-and-go snack (see recipe below).
Breakfast recipes to keep your kids energized for the school day
Every family has different barriers when it comes to getting in a good breakfast before school. Below are a couple of different options for families, whether you’re on the go or looking for budget-friendly ideas, be sure to make breakfast a priority!
Freezer-friendly veggie egg mcmuffins
A great tip for families who have limited time for breakfast in the morning is to prepare ahead of time. For example, the following recipe for breakfast sandwiches can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer. Simply pop them in the microwave and pair them with an easy-to-grab fruit, such as a banana.
- 1 large onion
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 6 cups of spinach
- 12 large eggs
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 12 slices low-fat cheddar cheese
- 12 whole wheat English muffins
- Preheat oven to 350 and line 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper.
- Chop onion and sauté in a pan until tender and brown, about 7-10 minutes.
- Add spinach to pan and sauté until spinach is wilted and tender. Let mixture cool.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs, cottage cheese and sauteed veggie mix.
- Pour egg and vegetable mixture into pan and bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes, until the eggs are cooked.
- Cut cooked egg mixture into 12 squares.
- Assemble sandwiches: one square of egg and one slice of cheese inside each English muffin.
To store: Wrap the entire sandwich in parchment paper and foil and place in the freezer.
To reheat: Remove foil and microwave on high for 3 minutes.
Food groups included in this recipe: protein, carbohydrate, dairy, vegetables
Recipe courtesy of Super Healthy Kids
Banana Bread Overnight Oats
Sticking to a budget requires some planning in advance. Planning meals ahead of time and searching store ads to look for the best deal on items. This recipe contains items that can be purchased in bulk at a lower cost.
• 1/2 cup of rolled oats
• 3 oz of milk of choice
• 2 oz yogurt (plain or vanilla)
• 1/2 banana sliced
• 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, almonds, or pecans (optional)
- Add oats, milk and yogurt to a mason jar or container. Mix.
- Add sliced bananas and nuts to the top of the mixture.
- Place lid on jar or container and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Food groups included in this recipe: carbohydrates, dairy, fruit, healthy fats (if nuts are added)
Recipe adapted from Tasty
Berry Banana Smoothie
Including kids in meal preparation can encourage them to try new foods. For this recipe, have kids choose what fruit they would like to have. Older kids can help to blend the smoothies and younger kids can help to choose their favorite cup.
- 1 cup of frozen berries
- 1/2 banana
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 cup of milk of choice
- Handful of spinach
- 1 tbsp of peanut butter (optional)
- Add ingredients to blender.
- Blend for about 30 seconds or until all ingredients are thoroughly blended.
- Pour into your favorite glass, add a straw and enjoy.
Prep ahead tip: try making smoothie packs! You can add premeasured berries, banana, and spinach to a Ziplock bag and store in the freezer. In the morning, pour the smoothie pack into the blender and add yogurt and milk.
Food groups included in this recipe: fruit, dairy, protein, healthy fats, and vegetables
Homemade Granola Bars
Makes 16 bars
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 3/4 cup add-in of choice (dried fruit, nuts, or mini chocolate chips)
- Combine honey and peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45-60 seconds. Stir well.
- Add vanilla extract.
- Mix in oats and add-ins. *mixture will be sticky
- Line a 9 x 9 square pan with parchment paper.
- Place mixture in lined pan.
- Place in the freezer for 1-2 hours.
- Cut into 16 bars.
Food groups include in this recipe: protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates
Recipe adapted from Delightful E Made
For more health and wellness resources from the pediatric experts at CHOC, sign up for the Kids Health newsletter.
How to prevent and treat respiratory illnesses this season
Unfortunately, many kids get infected with respiratory illnesses in the fall and winter seasons. CHOC experts highly encourage all eligible members of households to receive their annual flu shots. Other preventative measures like good hygiene and staying home when sick can help protect families from illness. The following articles and guides provide more information.
At CHOC, we specialize in providing a full continuum of pediatric nutrition services, including inpatient and outpatient services, depending on our patients’ needs.