By Brandie Mitchell, RN, LMT, Integrative Nurse Coach
One of the most common nutrition questions I hear from families is, “What is a healthy breakfast?” Breakfast is the first and, some would say, most important meal of the day. We ‘break’ our overnight ‘fast’ with a meal that will either fuel our bodies and minds or drain them. Some people wake up starving and ready to eat, others without an appetite for several hours. Whatever your preference, what we choose to consume for our first eating opportunity often heavily influences our emotional balance, mental focus, and energy levels for the rest of the day. Our bodies need nutrient-dense foods, as well as a healthy balance of proteins, carbohydrates and good fats to ignite our metabolism, as well as fuel our muscles and our brain.
The importance of protein and good fats at breakfast
No doubt, the most convenient breakfast foods are heavy in carbohydrates- cereals, waffles, breakfast bars, bagels and fruit juices. These foods break down into sugar that the brain can use for fuel. However, without adequate amounts of protein and healthy fat, starting our day with mostly carbohydrates sends our blood sugar soaring – and ultimately crashing – along with our ability to focus, maintain energy levels and feel our best emotionally. Take a look at your family’s typical breakfast and ask, “Where is the protein and good fat?”
Who has time for breakfast?
Are you racing out the door with breakfast in hand, eating in the car, or skipping breakfast altogether? Breakfast skipping in children tends to increase with age and is also associated with lifestyle behaviors of parents (1). Dietary behaviors established in childhood tend to extend into adulthood, so we have an opportunity to impact our children’s lifelong wellness by modeling healthy behaviors as well as creating an environment for healthy eating to flourish. We all have those mornings, but if sitting down for breakfast has become a thing of the past in your house, consider waking up a few minutes earlier and clearing the table to share this crucial meal. In our house, we have Breakfast Picnic on the floor!
Uncommon Breakfast Ideas
I am not a planner by nature, but I’ve learned a few tricks for keeping healthy breakfasts easy and accessible for our family. Try these simple prep tips and quick breakfast ideas:
Refrigerator Oatmeal- a cold version of the classic breakfast great for our steamy Houston mornings. Easy prep at night and ready in the morning! Recipe here: http://www.theyummylife.com/Refrigerator_Oatmeal
Eggs any style– With about 7 grams of protein per egg, a great dose of Vitamin A and choline for brain health, eggs are nearly a perfect food in my opinion. Throw a handful of spinach or another favorite veggie in the skillet with your eggs to get a serving of veggies in first thing too.
Yogurt with granola– Premixed yogurt, especially those marketed to kids, often contains too much sugar (look for 15 grams or less per serving). Even better, jazz up plain yogurt with fresh or frozen berries, natural fruit preserves, nuts and/or granola.
Hard or Soft-Boiled Eggs– boil a few at once and keep them in the fridge for an easy protein addition to any meal or snack
Shady Shake– Shake up your smoothies by taking a tip from our Shady Oak tree- go green! At our Spring Thing, we made smoothies with bananas, berries and spinach and they’re always a hit. When blended into a fruit smoothie, most kids don’t even notice the spinach.
Breakfast Burrito– eggs and veggies in a tortilla topped with salsa
Breakfast Kabob– breakfast on a stick! Cubed nitrate-free meat, organic cheese, and fruit on a stick is an easy way to take breakfast on the go.
Avocado/salmon rice cake– Rice cakes make a wonderful (gluten-free) palate for creating tasty breakfast treats. Add sliced avocado, and wild smoked salmon for a delicious gourmet twist.
Nut butter on a sprouted bagel– Sprouted bagels and breads are available in the frozen foods section of many grocery stores. Sprouted breads contain more protein than the average bread (about 5 grams per slice), and are sometimes more easily digested than traditional bagels and breads. Add 1 Tbs of nut butter (almond, cashew, natural peanut).
Turkey Breakfast sausage– Cook several of these ahead of time to have for quick protein in the morning. There are many frozen breakfast sausages out there- watch out for artificial preservatives and flavorings including MSG in typical store-bought sausages. I like Diestel Turkey Breakfast Sausage or consider making your own.
Experiment with different breakfast ideas and don’t be afraid to think outside of the typical American breakfast box. You can still enjoy your favorite breakfast indulgences occasionally, but aim for 80% of your breakfasts to fuel your family’s bodies and brains for all day energy. Have other fun breakfast ideas? Share them on our Shady Oak Facebook Page.
Pearson N, Biddle SJ, Gorely T. Family correlates of breakfast consumption among children and adolescents. A systematic review. Appetite. 2009 Feb;52(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2008.08.006. Epub 2008 Aug 22. Review. PubMed PMID: 18789364.