Three Quick, Nutritious Breakfasts Your Littles Will Love
the hearty classic … that you can tweak each day for something new
In regards to nutrition, it’s hard to beat good old-fashioned oatmeal … but it needs to be the real stuff, no added sugars or preservatives. The best way to undo all the benefits of this healthy grain is to drown it in sugar … take a look at all the nutrition information for pre-packaged/instant oatmeal – it’s frightening. One of the most popular brands (I won’t name names here) contains 18 grams of sugar per serving! I don’t know what your kids are like, but if I gave my two and a half-year old daughter an extra 18 grams of processed sugar, she might literally start climbing the walls.
So, let’s get real: the best, most nutritious option is plain, old-fashioned rolled oats. You control the amount of added sugar by choosing the “add-ins” – I generally add a few dried cranberries, and always add a few teaspoons of crushed walnuts, chopped fresh fruit (whatever I have on hand), and one teaspoon of ground flaxseed. I like to choose “add-ins” that provide a health benefit – nuts and flaxseeds provide heart-health fat, and fresh fruit is chock-full of nutrients and antioxidants. And the best part of making your own is that you can switch up the add-ins each day, so your child won’t get bored with the same old flavor over and over. One last bit of advice – give the recipe a try without adding any sugar – including brown sugar, honey, jams/jellies, or maple syrup. You’ll be surprised how satisfying this recipe can be just by adding fresh fruit and nuts. And though it may taste bland to you, realize your little one’s taste buds have not spent 25+ years getting acclimated to sugar like yours have – it may taste super yummy to him or her! Don’t short-circuit his or her willingness to forgo additional sugar because it doesn’t taste sweet enough for you! However, if you find that sweetener is necessary, stick with honey, maple syrup, agave, or a no sugar-added fruit jam/jelly.
Alright, I know what you’re thinking, “old-fashioned oats take forever to cook, you said these options would be quick!” Yes, it’s true, if you follow the stovetop instructions on the back of the canister, you have to drag out a saucepan, heat the milk/water, and then wait for it to cook. But, here’s a secret, the microwave works really well too … especially for mommas who are running around in circles all morning just trying to make it out the door with everyone in tow.
So, here’s the super-quick version:
¼ to ½ cup old-fashioned oats (choose the appropriate portion for your child)
1-2 tbsp dried fruit of your choice
1-2 tbsp nuts of your choice
½ - 2 tsp ground flaxseed (optional, but super-healthy!)
1-2 tsp honey, maple syrup, agave, jam/jelly, nut butter (optional)
Measure the oats, add all dry ingredients (dried fruit, nuts, flaxseed, etc.).
Add enough water/milk to submerge the oats (liquid should just cover the top of the oats). Microwave anywhere from 1 min, 30 seconds to 3 minutes, depending upon portion size (as a general reference, I microwave ¼ cup of oats for 1 min, 30 seconds).
Add chopped fresh fruit and sweetener of your choice, stir and serve.
*Note: you can combine the oats and dry add-ins, and chop the fresh fruit ahead of time. In the morning, simply add liquid to the oat mix and microwave. Then add the pre-cut fruit. This process takes me about 2 minutes each morning!
Greek Yogurt Parfait
… the refreshing, protein powerhouse
Yogurt is another fantastic option for little growing bodies! High in calcium and protein, it’s satisfying and nutritious. However, much like oatmeal, there are what I like to call “impostors,” that you should avoid at all costs.
First, avoid regular yogurt and go for the greek variety … a cup of 2% plain greek yogurt contains 20 grams of protein and 8 grams of sugar, while low-fat plain yogurt contains only 11 grams of protein, but 16 grams of sugar. In terms of protein and sugar content, greek yogurt is a rockstar. Now, note these stats are for plain yogurt, so the sugar content is natural sugar derived from milk, which is perfectly healthy in moderation. Which leads to my next point…
Choose plain, rather than flavored, yogurt varieties. While the sugar content in plain yogurt is naturally derived from milk, flavored yogurts are full of added sugars and high-fructose corn syrup. For example, one popular brand contains 22 grams of sugar! Just to give you some perspective – a full-size Snickers bar contains only 20 grams of sugar. We wouldn’t think it’s acceptable to feed our children a candy bar for breakfast, would we? Of course not! Added sugar, in all its forms, is linked with diabetes, obesity, and a long list of other maladies … you want better for your little! Much like our oatmeal recipe above, we’re going to sweeten up this deal the all-natural way, with real, fresh fruit, not added simple sugars. Try fresh mango and blueberries, or mash up some banana to mix in, and top it off with diced strawberry. Get creative … your little one will probably develop a few favorites, but push him or her to try new things … the best way to teach our kids to develop into healthy adults is to expose them to a wide-variety of nutritious options.
½ cup – 1 cup plain greek yogurt (0% or 2% Fage is fantastic – they also pledge to use cows not treated with hormones/rGBH)
¼ cup to ½ cup chopped fresh fruit (another way to help “sweeten” the yogurt is to really mash the fruit before adding)
Mix/layer the fruit and yogurt, and serve.
… the great in-a-pinch, pre-packaged option
Ok, some mornings you really just don’t have the time to do anything other than grab a box and dump it in a bag (trust me, I’ve experienced my fair share of these mornings)! On these days, I like to reach for a quick mix of Kashi cereals. They taste fantastic (no cardboard here), and they’re lower in sugar than most of the other pre-packed cereals options. My favorite mix is ½ cup Kashi Heart to Heart in Organic Warm Cinnamon mixed a ¼ Kashi Go Lean Chocolate Crunch.
Kashi Heart to Heart in the cinnamon flavor has only 5 grams of sugar in a ¾ cup serving, and Kashi Go Lean Chocolate Crunch has 10 grams of sugar in a ¾ cup serving (but also boasts 10 grams protein, and 7 grams of fiber). Based on my serving size above, we have a super-quick breakfast any child would love, with just 5 grams of sugar! While it’s not as nutritious as the oatmeal or greek yogurt, it’s great in a pinch!
The key take-aways
Regardless of what meal you choose, the best way to ensure your child is getting the most nutritious food possible, is to follow a few simple guidelines: 1) when possible, choose natural, unprocessed options, and 2) always check for added sugar… it’s everywhere, even in foods you wouldn’t expect, like bread, cereal bars, and even spaghetti sauce!