We’ve all experienced "morning madness" — whether it's a busy commute or working with picky eaters, many things can make for a stressful morning. Breakfast, however, is really an important meal!
Research shows that breaking an overnight fast with a balanced meal can make a significant difference in overall health and well-being, in particular for children and teens. Eating a smart breakfast can help improve behavior and school performance.
The good news is that healthy breakfast options are available no matter what morning hurdles you face. Make time for your morning meal with these simple solutions.
If You Wake Up on Time, Enjoy...
- Scrambled Eggs: Serve with fruit and whole-grain toast. Mix in extra vegetables such as spinach and mushrooms when cooking the eggs.
- Whole-Grain Waffles: If you have a waffle iron, try a whole-grain waffle mix from the grocery store for a special treat. Serve topped with fresh fruit.
- Nigerian Egg Stew with Boiled Yams: Egg stew is quick and easy to make, combining beaten eggs, tomatoes and a mixture of vegetables such as chopped bell pepper and onion. Serve with a side of boiled yams.
- Porridge: Use millet, sorghum or maize and add spices like cinnamon or ginger.
- Vietnamese Banh Mi Op La: Have banh mi breakfast-style! Banh mi op la translates to “omelet bread” and is similar to a fried egg sandwich. Include vegetables such as tomato, pickled carrot, cucumber and cilantro and sauces such as soy sauce and hot chili sauce.
- Poha: Poha is a flattened rice, often eaten for breakfast in Maharashtra, a state of India. This quick-cooking recipe is often mixed with green chiles and onion or potato, plus various spices such as turmeric, mustard seeds, coriander leaves and curry leaves. Add roasted peanuts for extra protein and crunch.
If You Hit the Snooze Button One Time, Eat...
- English Muffin Sandwich: Toast a whole-grain English muffin. Put low-fat cheese and sliced deli ham on the toasted muffin. Warm the sandwich in the microwave to melt the cheese. Grab a piece of fruit to round out the meal.
- Breakfast Tacos: Scramble and cook eggs or egg whites. Serve eggs with beans on a tortilla. For additional toppings, add salsa and low-fat cheese.
- Classic Cereal Gets an Upgrade: Cut up some fresh fruit and add to an unsweetened breakfast cereal.
- Yogurt Parfait: Layer yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit and granola or whole-grain cereal.
If You Hit the Snooze Button Two (or More) Times, You Can Still Break the Fast...
- Instant Oatmeal: Look for varieties without added sugar and just add boiling water. Stir in dried cranberries and almonds.
- 45-Second Scrambled Eggs: Put eggs and a splash of milk in a bowl, whisk it up and put it in a microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and put back in for another 10 seconds.
- Peanut Butter Sandwich: And, grab a banana while you're at it.
- Cream Cheese on Whole-Grain Bread: Try it on a bagel or tortillas.
- 30-second Smoothie: Blend low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana for a quick smoothie to enjoy with a bran muffin.
- Enjoy a plate of cheese, olives, bread and fig or apricot jam.
If Your Time is Tight in the Morning, Get Organized Ahead of Time.
- Ready-Set-Go: The night before, make a breakfast plan as you clean up from dinner. Set the table and prepare your cooking utensils the night before.
- Omelets or Frittatas: Prepare fresh vegetable omelets or frittatas ahead of time to reheat all week long.
- Brown Bag Breakfast: Grab a banana, a bag of trail mix made with whole-grain cereal, shelled pistachios and a favorite dried fruit (try diced apricot, pineapple or mango).
If Your Picky Eater Needs Coaxing...
- Instead of Doughnuts: Offer whole-grain toaster waffles or pancakes. Add other foods such as low-fat milk and fruit to ensure some extra nutrition.
- Banana Dog: Spread a couple of tablespoons of peanut or almond butter on a whole-grain hot dog bun. Peel a banana, place inside the bun and eat it like a hot dog. Pair this with low-fat or fat-free milk.
- Gobble, Gobble, Gobble Bacon: Switch to turkey bacon, which is much lower in fat than traditional bacon.
- Toast with Peanut Butter: Use whole-grain toast to boost fiber and use peanut butter for a morning protein boost. Add a glass of low-fat milk or 100% orange juice.
- Not So Sugary Cereals: Substitute low-sugar, whole-grain cereals and pair with fresh or frozen berries.
- Fresh Fruit: bananas, kiwi, pears, apples, mangoes, melon, grapefruit or whatever is in season.
- Savory Breakfast Foods: The best breakfast for kids is the breakfast they'll eat, and that doesn’t mean they need to be traditional American breakfast foods. If your child prefers savory to sweet, there are plenty of foods that can be encouraged, too.
If Your Little One Doesn't Eat Much In The Morning...
- Spread It Out: Have your child eat a piece of fruit and drink a glass of low-fat milk before they leave the house. Then, when they get to school, they can have a small snack; such as an oatmeal muffin or a low-sugar breakfast bar.
- School Breakfasts: Many schools serve a variety of nutritious breakfasts for kids. If this is available in your area, encourage your children to take advantage of these options.
- Easy Does It: Put breakfast fixings in an easy-to-grab place. Put the cereal on a lower shelf in the pantry so younger kids can reach it easily, and place fruit in a bowl on the counter where kids (and parents) can easily grab something nutritious on their way out the door.
- Role Model It: If your child sees you making time to eat a healthy meal, they’ll be more likely to follow your healthy example.
With these easy and family-friendly healthy breakfast tips, you can help your family rise, shine and get ready for a busy day.
Consider yogurt or kefir as a way to incorporate probiotics into your breakfast — eat them alone or mixed with fruit, nuts, seeds or whole grain cereal. They can also be blended with fresh or frozen spinach in a smoothie.
Emma Laing, PhD, RDN, LD, FAND
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
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