Finding shoes that match, packing lunches and rounding up homework is stressful enough without worrying about what to feed the kids for breakfast.
For adults trying to fit in a trip to the gym and send that last email before leaving the house, breakfast can be challenging, too.
“You’re basically running on empty in the morning,” says Natalie Tauzin, health program specialist with the Spokane Regional Health District. “It’s really critical for the kids (to eat breakfast) or their attention span is compromised.”
Eating breakfast also helps adults concentrate better and resist the urge to reach for sugar and caffeine for energy.
Here are a few tips that will help you and your family fuel up for a great day.
1. Make it part of the routine
Tauzin suggests choosing three out of the five following components: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. (See choosemyplate.gov for specific ideas.) Whole-grain toast with peanut butter, yogurt and some fruit is a good example.
Tauzin recommends a lean protein source like a hard-boiled egg or glass of milk with breakfast to help people feel full longer.
Negotiating can be helpful with children. Ask them, “Do you want to eat when you get up or after you get ready for school?”
Tauzin stresses the importance of having a predictable schedule around meals and making kids aware of the importance of breakfast. Get them involved in planning the morning meal while you are cleaning up from dinner.
2. Drink it up
“Not everyone is hungry in the morning,” Tauzin recognizes.
If you just can’t stomach a solid breakfast, start with four ounces of juice, she suggests: “It’s an appetite stimulant, so by the time you get to work you’re ready to eat.”
Make sure to bring along a protein bar or a bag of nuts and raisins for later.
Another option is an instant breakfast drink, which might appeal to kids who don’t want to eat in the morning. Just be sure to check with your pediatrician to make sure the protein levels are safe for young children.
Smoothies with fruit, yogurt and milk are another great option.
3. Dinner for breakfast
There’s nothing wrong with warmed-up pizza or a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast. If savory dishes sound more appealing, go for it. Reheated brown rice with milk and cinnamon, hummus and pita bread, or a bean and cheese quesadilla make fine breakfast choices.
In many countries, breakfast consists of savory items like curries, cold cuts and soups.
Try a European breakfast with a few kinds of bread or crackers, sliced meats and cheese and let kids make their own. Round it out with a hard-boiled egg, yogurt or a glass of juice.
4. Fuel your body
If you’re tempted to skip breakfast before hitting the gym, think twice.
“You’ve got to have something to kick-start your metabolism so you burn fat instead of muscle,” says Justin Rundle, personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach at Mt. Spokane High School.
“Try something bland and easy to digest an hour and a half before, like Greek yogurt or a protein shake. That alone will make the difference,” says Rundle.
Almonds are a great pre-workout natural power food.
Tempting teenagers into eating breakfast can be especially tricky. “They are going to put sleep first (over breakfast),” he says.
Encourage them to have a glass of milk, juice or protein shake and keep whole-grain cereals like Wheaties, Cheerios and Fiber One on hand. Low-fat cheese sticks or a handful of almonds can be breakfast on the go for a busy teen.
5. Be prepared
Celeste Shaw, owner of Chaps restaurant, stresses the importance of being prepared and keeping things simple when it comes to breakfast.
“People should be able to make something with what they have,” she says.
Make a “banana dog” with peanut butter, a banana and raisins in a long, whole-wheat bun. Or mix some apple butter into cottage cheese for a change of pace. Dish up some yogurt and let kids top it off with dried fruit, cereal or mandarin oranges.
Gina Garcia, Shaw’s partner at Cake Bakery, is a fan of liquid eggs.
“Pour some into individual bowls and microwave them. It makes the most amazing scrambled eggs,” she says.
She serves them on toasted English muffins with turkey sausage patties and cheese, a dish her 7-year-old affectionately calls Egg McMomlettes. The sandwiches can be made ahead and frozen for up to one month.
Garcia also suggests making a batch of pancakes ahead of time and freezing them between squares of wax paper. Keep a box of muffin mix (like Bob’s Red Mill) on hand – it can also be used for pancakes.
6. Wrap it up
Tortillas and whole-grain wraps with various fillings make for a quick breakfast that can be eaten on the go.
“Take a tortilla, spread some peanut butter on it, add sliced bananas and granola and serve – or heat it up. My kids go crazy for it,” says Garcia.
Experiment with different wraps until you find one that you like. Get fancy with low-fat flavored cream cheese with smoked salmon and sliced tomatoes, or keep it simple with yogurt, granola and dried fruit.
Here are some breakfast recipes for the whole family to enjoy.
French Toast Sticks
Courtesy of Natalie Tauzin, Spokane Regional Health District. Instead of syrup, try dipping these sticks in applesauce or low-fat yogurt.
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup pureed pears, peaches or applesauce
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 slices 100 percent whole-wheat bread
Mix eggs, nonfat milk, pureed fruit and vanilla in a flat, wide bowl. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and coat with cooking spray.
Dip the bread into the egg mixture just long enough to coat thoroughly. Cook until browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Cut each piece of bread into 5 sticks.
Yield: 6 servings. Serve with fresh fruit.
Courtesy of Brandi Behrens, WRAPS restaurant, Spokane Valley, who says: “It is simple and healthy, very tasty and can even be put together the night before.” For an extra nutritional boost, add sautéed veggies such as peppers or mushrooms.
1 (10-inch) tortilla, spinach-flavored, whole-wheat or flour
1 scrambled egg
1/2 ounce shredded cheddar cheese
2 ounces salsa
1/4 cup shredded hash browns or 1 hash brown patty (cooked)
Warm tortilla slightly and add egg, cheese, hash browns and salsa. Fold burrito-style and warm in microwave for about 1 minute. Serve immediately.
Yield: 1 serving
Homemade Instant Breakfast
Courtesy of Justin Rundle, Spokane, who says, “The benefit is you know exactly what’s in it when you make your own drinks.”
1 scoop of protein powder (Rundle uses Dymatize or Elite Gourmet, available at GNC or Super Supplements)
8 to 12 ounces water or milk (or soy or almond milk)
Handful of berries, fresh or frozen
6 to 8 almonds or 1 tablespoon almond or peanut butter
Combine ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth.
Yield: 1 serving
Courtesy of Gina Garcia, Cake Bakery at Chaps Restaurant
3/4 cup dried apricots
3/4 cup dried apples
4 brown rice cakes
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup peanut butter (or substitute almond, soy nut or sunflower seed butter)
1 1/4 cup agave nectar
Combine the dried fruit and rice cakes in a food processor until roughly chopped. Set aside the sesame seeds. Add the fruit mixture to the coconut, the remaining seeds and oats. Mix well.
Slightly heat the peanut butter. Fold agave nectar and peanut butter into the dry mixture until combined.
Lightly toast the sesame seeds. Cool. Form the peanut butter mixture into 2-ounce spheres and roll into the toasted sesame seeds.
Chill and wrap. These snacks can be refrigerated up to 1 week.
Yield: 18 spheres
Apple Trail Bars
Courtesy of Gina Garcia
1 1/2 sticks butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 cup oats
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Dice apples and put them into a saucepan with 1 tablespoon butter. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples are soft.
Add the rest of the butter, the sugar, agave nectar, cinnamon and raisins. Heat the mixture gently until the butter has melted.
Combine the oats and sunflower seeds. Pour the warm apple mixture over the oats and seeds. Fold until combined.
Spoon the mixture into a pan and spread it out until the top is smooth. Bake for 25 minutes. When cool, cut into bars and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
From “Whole Grains for Busy People,” by Lorna Sass (Clarkson Potter, 2008). Prepare this oatmeal in a thermos and it will be ready when you get to work. To make a batch of mix in advance, triple or quadruple the dry ingredients and scoop out ¾ cup for each daily portion.
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
1 heaping tablespoon raisins
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Combine the oats, almonds, raisins, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a small wide-mouth thermos. Pour in 1/2 cup boiling water for firm oatmeal or 2/3 cup for soft, loose oatmeal. Immediately screw on the top and shake gently. Wait at least 5 minutes before eating.
Yield: 1 serving.