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Nutritious breakfast fuels the school day

By Greg Summers

Right after the light switch gets cut on each school morning, the frenzy begins.

Getting kids up and ready for school is hectic. Depending on their age, getting them to eat a balanced breakfast is almost impossible.

And whatever their early morning mood – in a rush to get them out the door on time when the clock is ticking – one of the first things to get neglected is a healthy breakfast.

If you can get them to sit still long enough for a couple of bites of something they won’t turn their noses up at, consider yourself lucky.

No matter what age, getting them to the kitchen table at about 7 a.m. is a challenge.  

By the way, there are only 173 days of school left.

Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Studies show that children who eat a complete breakfast perform better in class. According to the USDA, they make fewer mistakes and work faster in math than those who eat a partial breakfast.

Most kids need both carbohydrates and proteins to start the day and the more complex the food, the longer it fuels their bodies.

The perfect breakfast includes a whole grain, a source of protein (an egg, dairy products, nuts or lean meat) and a fruit or vegetable.

A meal packed with brain foods (vitamin B, omega-3 and protein) aids brain development, concentration and memory. It also lessens mood swings and boosts energy.

That’s why a bowl of whole grain cereal with low-fat milk and fruit works better that a high-sugar breakfast of juice and doughnuts.

Juice and doughnuts may jump-start the body, but the body burns it off quicker.

Studies also show that breakfast eaters tend to be leaner and more successful at maintaining a healthy weight than those who skip the first meal of the day.

But you don’t have to settle for a doughnuts and juice sugar buzz.

Here are a few options to consider.

– Explain to your children why breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Ask them to take part in the grocery shopping or helping with the shopping list.

– Breakfast doesn’t have to be traditional. Cheese toast, breakfast burritos and pizza pockets are all portable. So is a boiled egg, whole wheat crackers and a tangerine or orange. A toasted bagel topped with peanut butter can be eaten on the run and can keep your child’s stomach full until the lunch bell rings.

– Plan ahead. Set the breakfast table the night before, even if it’s only for cereal and juice.

– Make pancake or waffle batter ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator so that it’s ready to go. French toast is another quick breakfast that kids like.

– If your children enjoy muffins, store a steady supply in airtight containers in the freezer that are ready to warm in the microwave.

– Smoothies made of strawberries, milk, vanilla yogurt and a little wheat germ can help meet the recommended daily intake of calcium and protein. They can be made the night before, refrigerated and poured into a cup.

– Adjust your morning schedule. Let eating breakfast be the last thing they do before leaving for school.

Studies suggest that eating breakfast closer to classroom and test-taking time improves performance when compared to students who skip breakfast. 

The key is coming up with something that works. Some kids like to eat the same things day after day, while others need a little more variety.

If you have a really adventurous eater, you may want to try the Breakfast Casserole.

From the dLife (For Your Diabetes Life!), the recipe can be adapted to fit your needs or taste. Plus, it can be made the night before, refrigerated and popped into the oven while everyone is getting ready.

Kid-friendly English Muffin Pizzas are a quick, easy and nutritious recipe that your children will love.

An English muffin can be a good way to add extra fiber, calcium (from the cheese) and vegetables to a child’s diet. Whole grain muffins are even better and part-skim mozzarella cheese can decrease the fat.

Made with egg substitutes, this Spinach and Cheese Omelet is also a delicious way to start the morning.

Spinach and Cheese Omelet


3/4 cup egg substitute

1 teaspoon water

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup loose packed spinach

1 plum tomato, chopped

2 tablespoons shredded nonfat cheddar cheese

Cooking spray


– Whisk eggs, water, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Toss spinach, tomato and cheddar together in a small bowl.

– Lightly coat an omelet pan or small skillet with cooking spray, heat over medium heat for 1 minute. Pour egg mixture into pan and cook about two minutes or until omelet is set. Lift edge to let uncooked portion of egg flow underneath. Spread filling over half of omelet; fold opposite half of omelet over filling. Slide omelet onto a serving plate. Serve with fresh fruit.

– Recipe from www.EasyHomeMeals.com

Breakfast Casserole


1 pound baby red potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

1/3 cup chopped leeks, thinly sliced

Canola cooking spray

6 ounces reduced-fat low-sodium ham

3 ounces low fat Swiss cheese, diced into small pieces

1 1/4 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon white all-purpose flour

3/4 cup egg substitute

2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme  

1/4 teaspoon pepper


– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

– In a large covered saucepan cook sliced potatoes in a small amount of boiling, slightly-salted water for about 10 minutes or just until tender. Add leeks the last five minutes of cooking. Drain mixture.

– Coat a non-stick baking dish with cooking spray. Spread potato mixture in the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle with ham and Swiss cheese.

– In a medium bowl, stir the milk into the flour until smooth. Stir in the egg substitute, thyme and pepper. Pour egg mixture over potato mixture.

– Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

– Recipe from www.dLife.com

English Muffin Pizza


1 English muffin

Handful (about 1/3 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 sliced tomato or 2 tablespoons of tomato/pizza sauce

Pepperoni or other vegetable toppings (optional)


– Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees.

– Slice English muffin. Place sliced tomato or sauce and then the mozzarella cheese on each half of the English muffin. Add pepperoni slices or your favorite toppings.

– Place completed “pizza” on an aluminum-foil lined baking sheet and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how crispy your child likes pizza, or until the cheese is golden brown.

– Recipe from pediatrics.about.com