By: Lauren M. Koch, RDN
Is that the school bus I hear coming down the street? YES! Byeee kids!
Whoops. That came out wrong. I really meant to say, I’ll miss you! Of course I will. But, c’mon. Most parents know that twinge of relief that comes with packing them up & sending them off for another year of learning. I mean, I LOVE my kids. But August can be rough in these parts. No school. No camps. No practices. No nothing. Except for lots of hours that need filling. Cue, September.
But, the start of school brings its own challenges. Mornings that used to be fairly simple are suddenly rushed and stressful. Complete with forgotten library books, and forgotten coffee. What about breakfast? Unfortunately, quality nutrition is often an area that suffers when we’re tight on time. But eating before school really is important. Studies show that consuming breakfast improves both academic performance, as well as behavior at school (1,2,3,4,5,6).
So, you gotta feed them. But hold tight on that sugary breakfast bar for just a second. I have some better suggestions that are both nutritious, AND tasty enough to satisfy the most discriminating of kids. Best news, they are all super quick. Try these:
This is NOT your grandmother’s oatmeal. First, it’s served cold. Great for these late summer mornings, when hot cereal isn’t as appealing. It’s also packed with fiber, protein, and healthy carbohydrates to keep them energized and satisfied ’till lunchtime. I make a few batches at once, and store them in mason jars in my fridge. All that’s required in the morning is to grab a spoon & dig in! Simply combine old fashioned oats with your milk of choice, cover, and leave to soak in the fridge. Get creative, and add some extra goodies to boost the flavor (and nutrition, shhhh!). My kids love mix-ins like powdered peanut butter, raisins, unsweetened coconut, dark chocolate mini-chips, and cinnamon. Fresh fruit is always a good option too, but you might want to wait ’till morning to add it for the best flavor & texture.
Have a tough time getting your little one to commit to eating breakfast? Perhaps a drink is the way to go. The sky is the limit with smoothies, as far as what you can add. Fruit & milk are a good place to start. But be sure to include other healthy fats, fiber, and protein for staying power. Smoothie-friendly choices include flax or chia seeds, nut butter or powders, and plain greek yogurt. Don’t forget the veggies! Delicate greens like baby spinach and kale, pumpkin, and beets blend so well, your kids won’t even know they are there (bonus!). To speed up the process, I prep the ingredients for several smoothies ahead and freeze in individual batches until ready for use.
Maybe your kids prefer a hot breakfast. How about this for easy? Wisk together eggs, milk, shredded cheese, and chopped veggies (think onions, peppers, tomatoes, or spinach). Fill muffins tins to about 3/4 with the mixture, and bake at 350ºF until no longer runny (15-20min). Once cooled, these protein powerhouses can be frozen for quick breakfasts later on. Simply reheat in the microwave & go!
So, breathe mom & dad. At least this part of your day can be easy. But please, don’t ask me for help with that math homework.
Feel free to share your family’s favorites on my facebook, I love to hear from you!
(1) Vaisman, N., Voet, H., Akivis, A., & Vakil, E. (1996) Effects of Breakfast Timing on the Cognitive Functions of Elementary School Students. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 150, 1089-1092.
(2) Ptomey, L. T., Steger, F. L., Schubert, M. M., Lee, J., Willis, E. A., Sullivan, D. K., Szabo-Reed, A. N., Washburn, R. A., & Donnelly, J. E. (2016). Breakfast intake and composition is associated with superior academic achievement in elementary school children. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 35(4), 326-333.
(3) Frisvold, D. E. (2015). Nutrition and cognitive achievement: an evaluation of the School Breakfast Program. Journal of Public Economics, 124, 91–104.
(4) Murphy, J. M. (2007). Breakfast and Learning: An Updated Review. Journal of Current Nutrition and Food Science, 3(1), 3-36. 16
(5) Basch, C. E. (2011). Breakfast and the Achievement Gap Among Urban Minority Youth. Journal of School Health, 81 (10), 635-640.
(6) Murphy, J. M., Pagano, M., Nachmani, J., Sperling, P., Kane, S., & Kleinman, R. (1998). The Relationship of School Breakfast to Psychosocial and Academic Functioning: Cross-sectional and longitudinal observations in an inner-city sample. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 152,899-907.
mason jar: Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash
Oatmeal: Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash
Eggs: Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash