How can I make breakfast healthier for my kids?

Rose Reisman
Nutrition & Dietetics
Chances are if you have hectic mornings your kids may not be getting the healthiest breakfasts. Do frozen white flour waffles, pancakes, pop tarts, white toast and jam or sugary cereals sound familiar? You want to avoid the stress of arguing about breakfast so you give into their demands. But you’re setting up poor health habits for life as well as your child being nutritionally deficient.

It’s easy to change. Think about your child consuming three out of the four food groups for breakfast. Don’t worry, no chef’s skills required and you won’t need more than 5 minutes to prepare! A perfect healthy breakfast will consist of one serving of each: Protein, whole wheat grain and fruit or lower fat dairy.

Some easy nutritious ideas include the following:
  • A bowl of whole grain cereal (such as Kellogg's All Bran Flakes which has 5 g fiber and 4 g sugar per serving) with at least 4 g of fiber and less than 6 g of sugar. Add some milk and fresh fruit.
  • A bowl of plain yogurt with the addition of fresh chopped fruit and low fat granola. If more sweetness is required add a little honey.
  • Scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast and a small milk or chocolate milk.
  • Peanut or other nut butter on whole wheat pita or toast with sliced banana and milk or yogurt.
  • Cheese and whole wheat crackers or bagel and fruit
  • Quick smoothies made with fruit, yogurt or milk, juice and even peanut butter.
What to avoid:
  • Drinking juice. Eat your fruit instead. It’s more filling and you will get more fiber this way.
  • Deli meats such as sausages, ham and bacon which is filled with saturated fat, nitrites and sodium
Mary Mullen
Nutrition & Dietetics
Here are some guidelines based on the daily recommendations of MyPlate ( to help you and your family put together a Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight breakfast :
  • Include at least one selection each from three or more different food groups, choosing portions that fit within the child’s or teen’s personalized MyPlate daily eating plan.
  • Eat a whole grain carbohydrate with at least three grams of fiber per serving.
  • Include a lean protein food and a good source of calcium.
  • Choose foods that are low in fat and contain less than eight grams of sugar per serving.
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Two key components to making breakfast time healthier and stress-free are planning and getting your kids involved.

Before planning your regular grocery trip, ask your kids to provide a few choices for breakfast. Use their input to come up with quick and healthy breakfast meals. Getting their input will make it more likely that they will be excited about the breakfast options and doing a little bit of prep work ahead of time will help to decrease the chaos of the morning rush. Having a bit of variety also helps. Some healthy choices include:
  • yogurt parfaits: spoon out layers of yogurt, berries, and whole grain cereal (here is link to one of our family favorites!
  • homemade muffins: bake up a batch on the weekend. Making them at home allows you to control the sugar and add whole grains, such as oats
  • smoothies: let your kids choose the ingredients and a quick whir in the blender will yield a customized smoothie!
Once your children are over 4 years old, always keep raisins and nuts on hand. Toss them into cereals whenever your fresh fruit supplies are low, or add them to cereal in addition to fresh fruit for extra flavor. Nuts make a great addition to healthy breakfasts by adding unsaturated fat -- the good kind of fat -- to the meal. A little bit of healthy fat in a meal can help your child feel fuller for longer, and also can help her body better absorb nutrients from the rest of her meal.

If your family is hooked on breakfast meats, opt for leaner ones, such as ham, or limit them to once a week. Traditional breakfast meats tend to be high in saturated fat and/or sodium. You also can substitute high-fat bacon and sausage with lighter chicken or turkey sausage, or experiment with vegetarian sausage or bacon. There are several good choices on the market, but check the label for fat and sodium content, which could still be high in some brands.

If pancakes or waffles are a morning tradition in your family, add several tablespoons of bran to the batter to boost the fiber content. Also, top your hotcakes with fresh fruit purees, yogurt, or a handful of berries instead of syrup and butter.

From Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children by Jennifer Trachtenberg.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.