A Week’s Worth of Back-to-School Breakfasts
I know, I know. It’s hard to come up with healthy breakfasts day after day. Not only are you trying to get everyone out the door in the morning in a timely fashion, you’re most likely fighting the more insidious issue of advertising. Sugary breakfast cereals being hawked to a captive audience of young viewers, grab-and-go bars decked out with healthy-looking labels, frozen waffles swimming in high fructose corn syrup! What’s a parent to do?
Grow up. Be the adult. You may have to say “no” to that box of Froot Loops (which, by the way, I’ve noticed are now being sold to adults in a nostalgic commercial where the parents are playing video games and gulping down the box of
sugar Froot Loops after the kids have gone to bed. Don’t be taken in. You do know how much sugar is in that, right?)
Oh, and another little tidbit about Froot Loops. Did you know that all the fruit flavors are actually the same? You’re just getting some added artificial color with your sugar.
Don’t despair. You can make fast, easy breakfast foods that are healthy, too. I’ve been there. First, whole grain cereal is a great option. Add a few blueberries, raspberries or strawberries (they are currently 3 packages for $5 at Sprouts) and you’re boosting the nutritional value – and adding some natural sweetness. You can add your own sugar, just be sparing.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, “most Americans get more than 22 teaspoons – or 355 calories – of added sugar a day.” The recommended amount is no more than 100 calories a day for most women and 150 a day for most men, 6 and 9 teaspoons, respectively.
KIDS SHOULD ONLY HAVE ABOUT 3 OR 4 TEASPOONS OF ADDED SUGAR A DAY, WHICH IS 12-16 GRAMS.
So, read the labels on the food you’re buying to see how many grams of sugar is in the product per serving. Four grams equals about one teaspoon. Just because it says “healthy” or “low-fat” doesn’t mean it isn’t loaded down with sugar. Some yogurts have 5 or 6 teaspoons of sugar per serving! It’s best to get plain, low-fat yogurt and use fruit as a sweetener.
Here’s some more information from the Mayo Clinic site regarding reading labels. “Sugar” by any other name is:
Different names for added sugar: Sugar goes by many different names, depending on its source and how it was made. This can also make it hard to identify added sugar, even when you read ingredient lists and food labels.
Check for ingredients ending in "ose" — that's the chemical name for many types of sugar, such as fructose, glucose, maltose and dextrose. Here's a list of other common types of added sugar:
- Cane juice and cane syrup
- Corn sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate and nectars
- Malt syrup
Despite what you may have heard, there's no nutritional advantage for honey, brown sugar, fruit juice concentrate or other types of sugar over white sugar.
So, there you have it.
I promised to give you 5 days of breakfast foods other than cereal, so here you go:
MONDAY: BREAKFAST PARFAIT
Plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
Fruit (your choice of fresh and/or dried)
Granola (this can be high in sugar, but you’re just adding a very small amount)
Walnuts, pecans or almonds (optional, but give added nutrition)
Directions: layer of yogurt, layer of fruit, layer of yogurt. Top with more fruit, sprinkle with granola and nuts, if using.
TUESDAY: BREAKFAST BURRITO
Depending on whether your kids like sweet or savory, you can do one of the following:
Savory: Scramble an egg, add some low-fat cheese (your choice), maybe some crumbled turkey sausage (you could make a little of this the night before and just throw it in with the eggs to warm up). Other add-ins could include avocado, scallions, tomatoes, salsa, other veggies such as mushrooms/green, yellow, red peppers, etc.
Roll it all up in a warmed whole grain tortilla and enjoy. You can even make some of these ahead of time and freeze to warm up later.
Sweet: Warm a whole grain tortilla. Spread with peanut, almond or other nut butter. Add sliced bananas or other fruit, depending on what you like. Add a slight drizzle of honey, if you like. Roll up and enjoy. This can also be piled on a slice of whole grain bread or English muffin.
Smoothie versions are endless. Here’s the one I have almost every day. When I come in from running, I don’t feel like eating, but I do feel like having something to drink, so this fills the bill.
1 banana (if you like really cold stuff, you can freeze the banana. I don’t.)
Blueberries or strawberries (just throw a few in)
A cup or so of low-fat milk, almond milk or soy milk (I like to use low-sugar vanilla soy milk. It adds a little extra flavor)
A handful of chopped up kale. I know this sounds disgusting, but you really can’t taste the kale. It has a very mild flavor, unlike spinach, which you can definitely taste in smoothies. If your kids have an aversion to green drinks, just tell them it’s magic leprechaun juice or something.
Add a ½ cup or so of low-fat Greek yogurt.
I usually put in some wheat germ or ground flax seed. You can also add a tablespoon of peanut butter for added protein.
If you like icy stuff, you could add an ice cube. I don’t.
Whir it all up and you have breakfast on the go.
THURSDAY: MICROWAVE “OMLETTE”
Whip up an egg in a small, glass ramekin sprayed with cooking spray. Put it in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Add a little shredded cheese. You can also add a little pre-cooked sausage. Cover with a paper towel and put it back in the microwave for a few seconds to finish cooking the egg and melt the cheese.
If you want to add a little diced tomato, or avocado or salsa, etc., you can include what you like. Serve with a slice of whole grain toast, or slip the whole thing out of the ramekin between two slices of whole grain toast and you have a breakfast sandwich.
This is super easy. My husband uses this method when he wants to make an egg for himself in the morning. You may have to adjust time, depending on your microwave. My husband’s egg has “blown up” a couple of times.
FRIDAY: BREAKFAST ON THE GO
Sometimes there just isn’t time to stop and eat anything, even cold cereal. On those occasions, it’s always good to have a hard-boiled egg and/or a cheese stick in the frig. Those, paired with an apple or some other fruit and a few whole grain crackers, a half of a whole grain English muffin or whole grain bread, can get you through the morning.
And, if you’re really desperate: Those sesame noodles, spaghetti and meatballs or that pizza from the night before can be breakfast. Don’t limit yourself!
What’s your easy breakfast idea (other than Pop-Tarts or Toaster Strudel)?