A healthy morning meal doesn't just give kids the fuel they need to power through their busy day. It's also the perfect opportunity to sneak in foods they don't get enough of. While the typical American breakfast can be a great way for kids to eat more whole grains, fruit and low fat dairy, ethnic breakfasts from around the globe can help them work in these, and other foods, like lean protein and even vegetables. "Ethnic breakfasts often have a balanced combination of protein and carbohydrate that can provide nutrients children need to give them the best start to work and play hard all day," says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Ximena Jimenez, MS, RDN.
Because they tend to use more – and different – food groups, ethnic choices are also smart alternatives for kids who get bored eating the same thing over and over. That's especially important because the way foods taste is a major factor in what kids do – or don't – eat according to The State of Family Nutrition and Physical Activity Report: Are We Making Progress?
Your kids can enjoy whole grain cereal or waffles on some days and on other days try some of these top ethnic picks suggested by five registered dietitians.
- Mexico: "South of the border kids eat tortillas with beans and shredded beef or chicken," says Jimenez. "Similar to a sandwich, this quick, invigorating breakfast is packed with B vitamins, protein and fiber."
- Israel: "One of the biggest health benefits of an Israeli breakfast is that it includes both vegetables and fruit as well as healthy fats. A typical breakfast consists of olives, cheese, vegetables, bread and fresh juices,” says Toby Smithson, RDN, CDE. "A fun Israeli recipe to make with your kids is to thread chunks of cheese and vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and pitted olives on wooden skewers."
- African American: "A traditional African American breakfast has lots of whole grains," says Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RDN, CDE. "It's not unusual to have grits and a slice of whole wheat toast alongside a scrambled egg. Add in a piece of fruit and a glass of non-fat milk and you've got at least one serving from each major food group."
- India: "Indian breakfasts are unique because they are often vegetarian," says Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE. "One South Indian favorite is vegetable upma, a hot breakfast made from Cream of Wheat and vegetables like onions, carrots and green beans and spiced with ginger, curry leaves, mustard seeds and cumin. Simple and comforting, this warm morning meal provides plenty of iron, calcium and fiber."
- Peru: "A typical Peruvian breakfast is often a healthy corn or quinoa tamal, with papaya and white cheese known as queso fresco, says Manuel Villacorta, MS, RD. "A weekend favorite is stir fried steak with tomatoes and onions served with bread."
- Colombia: "Breakfast in Colombia is definitely non-traditional," says Villacorta. "It's not unusual for people to start their day with "caldos" or soup. Another Colombian favorite is arepas, bread made from corn meal and eaten with cheese or shredded beef." In the U.S., arepas can be found in some supermarkets in the ethnic foods section.