Conquering the Breakfast Challenge
We’ve all been taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but because many of us rush to get ready for work or school in the mornings, it’s easier to grab something quick to eat as we head out the door.
Unfortunately, packaged “convenience” foods are not always the best choice, and preparing a nutritious homemade breakfast in a world of to-go toaster pastries and sugary cereals can feel like yet another early morning challenge.
“It really doesn’t have to be,” says Yvette Garfield, founder of The Handstand Kids Cookbook Company Even when they have to be eaten on the go, healthy breakfasts can be simple and delicious.
Make Educated Choices
Talk to younger kids about breakfast foods they like. Take them along to the grocery store or farmers market to see where fruits, vegetables and other foods come from.
“We’ve become what’s called a ‘mac n cheese’ society, where kids won’t eat anything unless it’s covered in cheese,” Garfield says. “Kids need to know that a chicken doesn’t really look like a nugget. When we learn at an early age, we ask the right questions, and we eventually make better choices as adults.”
Gardening is another way to teach them about different kinds of foods and seasonings.
“It’s like magic for a child to plant a seed and see what it becomes,” Garfield says.
Tweens and teens, whose tastes typically change as they grow, are usually forthcoming with any breakfast requests. Ask for their input. If you plan to make an omelet, fruit salad or make-ahead breakfast sandwich (see accompanying recipe), use this as an opportunity for older children to customize their entrees. Also consider presenting them with a few combinations and asking them to help prepare that item.
Take a Family Approach
Planning and preparing breakfast and other meals together whenever possible is a great way to help your family implement a healthier lifestyle. Garfield had family in mind when she founded The Handstand Kids Cookbook Company, which she created after looking for cookbooks to give to her younger cousins during her travels.
The company’s books feature recipes from different countries, along with cultural information and alternative suggestions that make the recipes easily adaptable from toddlers to teens.
“You don’t want to create a huge project for yourself when you’re preparing a meal — morning or evening — but allowing a child to have a hand in planning the menu, shopping, preparation or even cooking ahead of time can remove what I call the ‘icky factor’ of certain foods and open up a new world,” Garfield says.
Read the Label
Sara Erickson, a pediatric dietitian in Charlotte, says reading food labels is important — particularly where prepackaged breakfast foods and ingredients are concerned.
“When foods are highly processed, they are not whole foods anymore,” Erickson says. “So they can be high-calorie and have low nutritional value as well. Yogurt, cereals and oatmeal with fruit and granola can be good choices, provided that they’re not loaded with sugar.”
When reading labels in the grocery store, Erickson says she uses the 5 and 20 percent rule.
“When you’re looking at the sodium and fat levels on a label, you should aim for just 5 percent of the daily value,” she says. “When it comes to fiber, vitamins, iron and calcium, you want to see 20 percent or better. That’s one simple way to tell whether a food is a healthy choice.”
Tammy Holoman is a freelance writer from Winston-Salem.