8 Smart Breakfast Foods for Healthy Kids
- Smart Ways to Start the DayThere’s more to breakfast than a bowl of cereal. A healthy breakfast, that is. Though cereal tops most kids’ breakfast lists (and you can find many whole-grain options these days), a hearty breakfast that will keep your kids energized, focused and sharp all day long requires a bit more depth—not only good carbs, but some fiber and protein, as well. If you mix what your kids like with healthier options, they’re more likely to eat breakfast--and studies show students who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom. Here are a few A-plus breakfast foods to help your kids kickstart each day in a healthy way.
- BananasBananas are already a favorite fruit for many kids—and they’re good for them! This healthy carbohydrate, rich in dietary fiber and potassium (an electrolyte that naturally helps lower blood pressure), helps kids feel full longer—a great way to keep them going strong from breakfast to lunch. The fiber in bananas also helps move food through your child’s digestive system and can help relieve and prevent constipation. (According to your child’s age, he or she should get between 19 and 39 grams of fiber per day.)
- Peanut or Almond ButterPeanut butter on whole grain toast is a great way for kids to start the day. It’s loaded with protein, fats and fiber—and all the good types. Have a peanut allergy in the house? Try almond butter, comparable in nutrients, and with slightly less saturated fat. You can even add some banana slices on top to boost the nutrition value, or try this fun alternative for kids: the Banana Dog (peanut butter, a banana and raisins in a long whole-grain bun).
- EggsEggs are not only a convenient, inexpensive and high-quality protein source, they’re packed with important nutrients kids need, including iron, biotin, riboflavin, selenium, and vitamins A, D, E and B12. They’re also low in saturated fat, the main culprit when it comes to raising blood cholesterol. Whether your child is running out on the playground or sitting at his desk, protein is helping him move his legs, carry oxygen to his body and protect him from disease. So let your kids enjoy eggs often, and in a myriad of ways: in a mini quiche, in a breakfast taco (with shredded cheese and salsa), or as a classic scramble.
- Fresh FruitFresh fruits are nutritional powerhouses, which makes them a great start to your child’s day, especially when paired with a protein source like eggs, meat or yogurt. Fresh, seasonal produce often tastes better and is usually a better value than pre-packaged fruit, and if purchased locally, has more nutrients. And fresh fruit, a source of natural sugar, is always a healthier option over fruit juices and processed fruit breakfast bars, cereals and snacks that often contain added sugar. Those empty calories put kids at risk of obesity, diabetes and health problems that can show up as early as adolescence. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans say sugar should make up 5 to 15% of a child’s total calories.
- Greek YogurtEveryone is on the Greek yogurt bandwagon these days, and for good reason. It’s packed with calcium and protein—almost twice as much as regular yogurt! But some brands and flavors also come with way more sugar than your kids need. You’re better off starting with low-fat, plain yogurt and adding your own ingredients. Make it fun for kids by allowing them to make their own “breakfast parfait.” Provide a lineup of colorful fruit with some add-ins like coconut, granola—even a little dark chocolate.
- OatmealOats have beta-glucan, a type of fiber that, if eaten regularly, has been shown to help lower cholesterol. They also boast health essentials like omega-3 fatty acids, folate and potassium, which keeps your kids’ muscles and nervous system up to speed on a long school day. Steel-cut oats have more fiber than the rolled or instant brands, but you really can’t go wrong with any type of oatmeal. Just be sure to avoid the flavored kinds, which are typically packed with sugar. Add your own ingredients, such as vanilla, milk, frozen berries, chopped almonds or walnuts, along with some honey, agave nectar or pure maple syrup to sweeten the deal.
- Chia Seeds and FlaxseedMild, nutty chia seeds come from the chia plant (yes, the same one that grows on Chia Pets). They contain omega-3 fatty acids and are an excellent source of protein and calcium, which helps your kids build strong bones and healthy teeth. Just two tablespoons of flaxseed gives kids more than 100% of their recommended daily heart-healthy fats, and also have a nutty flavor, especially the toasted kind. Let your kids sprinkle these on yogurt, oatmeal, parfaits—or even in their occasional bowl of cereal.
8 Smart Breakfast Foods for Healthy Kids