Back-to-School Breakfasts: Keep It Simple and Healthy


On harried, hurried school mornings, it may seem sugary cereal with milk is the easiest breakfast option.

The truth: It doesn’t take long to serve a healthy breakfast”and the benefits are well worth the effort.

Studies show that kids who eat a healthy breakfast tend to have better school attendance, less tardiness and fewer hunger-induced stomachaches in the morning, according to Toby Smithson, a registered dietitiannutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Their overall test scores are better, they concentrate better, solve problems more easily and have better muscle coordination,” Smithson says. “Children who eat breakfast are also less likely to be overweight and more likely to get enough calcium.”

But simply eating breakfast is not enough. It has to be a healthy breakfast.

This is even more important if you’re battling any blood sugar problems, which my older daughter and I do. If we don’t eat a protein-rich breakfast, we run the risk of literally passing out. Not fun. Even if you don’t suffer from blood sugar issues, many nutritionists will tell you protein is the star of any breakfast recipe.

Delicious Protein-Rich Breakfasts Include:

  • Fried or soft-boiled egg, whole-grain toast and fruit or avocado slices
  • Scrambled egg with cheese, topped with salsa, sometimes wrapped in a tortilla
  • Instant plain grits with shredded low-fat cheddar cheese and soy bacon bits
  • Cheese toast or whole-grain muffin or bagel half with fruit on the side
  • Frozen whole-grain blueberry waffle topped with peanut butter
  • Peanut butter toast with banana
  • Fruit smoothies or green smoothies (the older daughter includes plenty of protein, with some combination of milk, yogurt, protein powder or peanut butter)
  • Low-fat yogurt, topped with granola
  • Lean turkey on toast or a whole-grain English muffin, with a slice of tomato or avocado
  • Oatmeal with fresh or dried fruit and chopped nuts or peanut butter
  • Almond butter on whole-grain toast, muffin or waffle

If your kids don’t like breakfast foods”or get bored with them”let them eat a sandwich or leftovers. Anything is fine if it’s healthy food. Encourage them to fix their own”and to avoid prepackaged, processed foods as much as possible.

It’s that time of year when kids have headed back to school. It’s also time for families to get back into routines that were probably set aside for a fun, structure-free summer. As we get back into the swing of things — packing lunches, checking homework folders, etc. — it’s easy to overlook the important start of our day, breakfast.

If your house is anything like mine, mornings are rapid and sometimes chaotic. This year our youngest is going to preschool in the mornings in addition to our oldest in elementary school, so things have gotten a little crazier. It’s tricky just making sure everyone is wearing clothing, has their teeth brushed and everything they need to go out the door, so breakfast can sometimes feel like an afterthought. Cereal is an easy standby because it’s just so fast and simple.

Yet, kids and adults both need a better start to face the day. Something with the right mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat that will keep us all going and focused until lunch time. Below is a list of breakfast ideas that require only slightly more time or planning than cereal so your mornings can still move quickly without skipping a nutritious meal. Some are things you can make ahead the night or even weekend before for basically zero-prep breakfasts through the week. Most can also be tweaked to whatever dietary restrictions your family needs — they’re pretty open ended.

Here’s to healthier, more filling school mornings this year.

1. Overnight oats

Overnight oats are a great alternative to cereal in the mornings. The prep time is basically the same, you just have to do it at night instead of in the morning. It’s also a perfect blank canvas for whatever flavors you or your kids enjoy, so everyone will be happy.

All you need to get started is regular rolled oats, some type of milk and something to sweeten it like mashed banana, honey or maple syrup. From there you can add nut butters, berries, seeds, vanilla extract, cinnamon, really anything that you have on hand.

The queen of overnight oats is Angela over at Oh She Glows. Check out her basic recipe and then explore her many other flavor ideas. They’re wonderful cold right out of the fridge, but in colder months, it’s perfectly fine to heat them up if it’s too chilly for a cold breakfast.

2. Hard boiled eggs

 Life is just easier when you have a bowl of hard boiled eggs sitting in the fridge. Cook up a batch on Sunday and keep them in the fridge for quick breakfasts, school lunches and amped up dinner salads. Just remember not to peel them until you’ll be eating them.

For breakfast all you need to add is some fruit and a piece of toast and everyone will leave the house fueled for the day ahead. Plus, in my experience, kids love them. Follow this guide to the perfect hard boiled egg, including the best way to peel them.

3. Creative toast

I truly think that one of the best things in life is bread with butter, but have you tried avocado toast? It’s up there, too. There are so many options for easy, but delicious toast in the morning that you should step away from the butter and try something new.

Start with a hearty whole grain bread and add combinations like avocado and tomato, peanut butter and banana, cream cheese and berries, apples and cheddar and so many more. You can go savory or sweet and it’s one of the fastest breakfasts around.

4. Egg “muffins”

These baked egg cups are very simple, but they taste like you spent a lot of time on breakfast. All you need to do is whisk together some eggs and the fillings of your choice and then pour the mixture into the cups of a muffin pan. Bake and you’ve got small, crustless quiches that can be stored in the fridge and pulled out for a delicious breakfast (or lunch) at the drop of a hat.

Fillings could include cheese, bell pepper, green onion, bacon (veggie or regular), mushrooms, or whatever your family enjoys. Here’s a recipe to get you started.

5. Smoothies

Smoothies are a great option for getting out the door quickly and you can use whatever you have on hand. As long as there is some type of milk or yogurt in the house, you can make smoothies. Add frozen or fresh fruit, vegetables like spinach, broccoli or kale and nut butters, spices or honey to make them extra special. I’ve found that half a banana can cover the flavor of any leafy green if you prefer that your smoothie not taste like vegetables, but still want to get the added health benefits.

If you’re taking your smoothies with you, you can actually blend them using a mason jar and then pop the lid on for easy travel.

6. Weekend muffins

I’m calling them weekend muffins because few of us feel motivated to bake muffins on a school morning. Make up a batch of filling, healthy muffins on the weekend and then put them in the freezer. You can pull them out on mornings when you need something quick. Plus, we all know kids love muffins and they are a great way to sneak in some extra healthy ingredients like zucchini, carrots, nuts and fruits that your kids may not always get at breakfast time.

Try this recipe for breakfast muffins that pack in a lot of healthy ingredients or these cranberry-orange pecan ones.

7. Yogurt, granola and fruit

Yogurt parfaits are a classic breakfast for a reason. They are simple, delicious and fully customizable.

Kids can make their own yogurt bowls at home. Just set out yogurt, fruit, granola, nuts or any other toppings you have and let them build their own. It’s quick and they’ll be happy to create their own masterpiece.

Adults, you can make these layered parfaits in a mason jar for breakfast on the go.

8. Breakfast tacos

You may call them breakfast wraps or breakfast burritos, but where I live in Texas, the breakfast taco is a dietary staple.

A basic breakfast taco really only needs a warm tortilla, eggs and cheese, but you can add or sub any fillings that you can dream up. Breakfast tacos are a great way to reuse leftovers from dinners like cooked potatoes, sautéed veggies, beans and meats or tofu. Add tomatoes, avocado or salsa for a delicious early morning meal.

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