Holy Moly! As much as I am looking forward to the return of a little structure and routine in our lives, I’m not looking forward to the hectic-ness that is a before-school-morning. And, as much as I’m going to enjoy a little peace and quiet, I’m also going to miss seeing those little faces that I’ve been looking at all summer – but that’s another article.
I’ve got three kids, and every.single.one of them eats so differently before school. I don’t want to turn into a short-order cook, so I like to serve things that might appeal to all three appetites. I also think it’s important to serve breakfasts with some protein and fat for sticking power because the school morning can stretch so long before lunch time.
A couple of good options that I’ve found include:
- Smoothies. It doesn’t get much easier than dumping ingredients in a blender, and it’s also a great way to get extra nutrients into your people. A basic formula is some type of liquid (I like to choose either milk or soy milk for the protein and calcium) + a favorite fruit or two + ice. I always throw in chia seeds for fat and protein because I have a pretty good blender that will pulverize them and no one is the wiser. You can also toss in a small amount of kale for calcium and some blueberries for antioxidants (and to hide the kale color), and now you’ve got calcium, protein, fiber, good fats, fruits AND veggies and it all tastes SO GOOD and actually looks pretty too!
2. Scrambled eggs, toast and fruit. This sounds like such a basic breakfast, but it hits all of the important notes – protein, good fat for sticking power, fiber and carbohydrates for energy. If you’ve cut the fruit up the night before, or if you stock fruits like strawberries or blueberries, then the meal is as simple as scrambling a few eggs and popping in a piece of toast.
3. Pancakes. This one sounds like way more work than a school morning calls for and it totally is – if you make the pancakes that morning. I love the Kodiak Cakes brand of buttermilk pancake mix, because it’s low in sugar and gives kids a whopping 14 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per serving. We add in some vanilla extract, a dash of cinnamon and a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips, and you end up needing less syrup as a result. I like to cook them in advance and heat them up in the microwave because they still taste great. You can also freeze big batches and just pull out what you need right before you want to serve them. You can find the mix at stores like Costco or H-E-B.
4. Muffins. A whole-grain (but still tasty) muffin is a great choice. You can make them ahead and serve as-is or warm them up 30 seconds before the kids sit down at the table. Their portability also makes them perfect for eating in the car or while chasing the bus as it drives off down the street.
Pineapple Zucchini Muffins (sub some all-purpose for whole wheat flour to increase the fiber content) – https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/40181/pineapple-zucchini-muffins/?internalSource=recipe%20hub&referringContentType=Search&clickId=cardslot%2052
- Yogurt parfaits – it doesn’t get much easier or fancy-looking than a yogurt parfait! I start with a pretty glass, layer in some whole milk or Greek-style vanilla-flavored yogurt, alternate it with a mix of blueberries and strawberries (you could use any fruit) and a sprinkling of boxed granola (Cascadian Farms makes a tasty, lower-sugar granola). In two minutes or less, a protein-filled breakfast is on the table!
6. Breakfast sandwiches. If you have a heartier, faster eater, consider making up some breakfast sandwiches to serve on the go. You can make them in bulk, and freeze them to use as needed. Ideally, you should pull one out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator to defrost the night before, but in a pinch, you can use a combination of the microwave’s defrost and cook settings to have breakfast ready in flash!
- Toast with a protein spread and fruit. There are so many combinations here! Start with whole-grain toast and slather it with your choice of protein-rich spread – favorites around here are peanut butter or cream cheese – flavored or plain. Then, top with a complimentary fruit or fruit spread. My kiddos love peanut butter with banana slices and a drizzle of honey, or plain cream cheese with a top-layer of strawberry jam. Fiber + protein + carbohydrates = a breakfast that will stick with them all morning.
8. Oatmeal. I know there are great from-scratch recipes, but on busy mornings, that just feels too overwhelming for me. Boxed oatmeal can be ridiculously high in sugar, so I like to doctor it up to make it healthier. My kids have never complained and oatmeal is their most-requested breakfast.
I start with an organic, flavored boxed oatmeal – we buy H-E-B’s organic maple spice and apple cinnamon flavors. I then add about ¼ cup of organic quick-cook oats (the kind that comes in the canister) to cut the sugar per volume. Next, I toss in a tablespoon or so of chia seeds (these are pretty obvious, so if your kids are picky you may want to substitute a tablespoon of ground flax seeds instead). Make it pretty soupy with your choice of milk, and microwave it in a good-sized bowl for two minutes. (A kid-sized bowl will cause a spill-over during cooking.) Cool it off with a couple of ice cubes and serve!
- Who needs breakfast? There’s no law that says you have to serve “breakfast foods” in the morning. The point is to get some good nutrition in your little people before you send them off for the day. If they love leftover spaghetti and meatballs for breakfast – great! (You may want to serve that before they get dressed – hah!) If there’s something nutritious that they’ll eat, but most adults would never eat at breakfast-time, who cares?! As long as they have some fuel to help those minds stay focused, it’s all good.