"A+" Ideas for School Day Breakfasts
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by Ricki Heller
After the lazy days of summer, the leap to autumn and the fast pace of school-day routines can be a challenge. And though it's not always possible to serve a hot, nutritionally sound breakfast to your kids each morning, there are many other options than cold cereal or granola bars as the kids rush out the door.
With just a little planning, you can ensure that your kids' dietary needs are met with a nutritious and delicious meal that's also quick and easy. Here are some "A+" breakfast ideas to help your school-aged kids start the day off right.
Preparing dishes the night before can help to make mornings run more smoothly. Cooked cereals, sandwiches, or containers of granola, chopped fruit and soy yogurt can be mixed up ahead of time and ready to go as the kids sprint to catch the school bus. Homemade fruit-based muffins spread with almond or peanut butter and wrapped in plastic are a quick and portable meal.
The "Overnight Oatmeal" recipe, below, allows you to prep in advance with very little fuss, waking to a ready-to-eat cereal in the morning; and the high protein, high calcium "Fig & Cherry Bars" can be made up to 10 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator?then just grab and go.
Take advantage of any dinnertime meals that can be reused the following day in new and different ways. Dishes such as pizza or baked tofu can work equally well in the morning, and your kids will love them even if they seem a bit strange to you. Try filling a sandwich with last night's baked tofu, or using pancakes from Sunday brunch for a quick and easy PB & jam sandwich (see the pancake recipe, below).
Using pita pockets, tortillas, crepes, or other wraps for breakfast offers a built-in, edible container for take-along breakfasts, and using whole-grain versions adds important vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your kids' diets as well. English muffins, biscuits or scones (try homemade if you can't find ones with healthy ingredients) can also be stuffed with an array of seed and nut butters, tofu and tempeh. Try breakfast burritos stuffed with scrambled tofu or hummus, banana and almond butter in a pita, English Muffins with grilled tempeh, baked beans in pita, or any other filling your imagination can devise.
You can often hide extra nutrition in foods with the help of protein powders or blended meals such as smoothies. Rice, hemp, or soy protein powder can be added to muffin or pancake batters, cereals, or smoothies without altering the taste or texture enough to tip off the kids. Or try including extra (well-chopped) veggies in scrambles or smoothies (see the recipe for "Mystery Smoothie," below), or silken tofu blended into a smoothie for extra protein.
It doesn't take much extra effort to provide healthy and appealing breakfasts that take very little time in the morning. Now, if only you could guarantee the kids' routine would also include their homework!
This is my version of a popular "live" breakfast oatmeal that's a cinch to make (use raw pumpkin seeds if you prefer it entirely raw). While you can add chopped fresh apple instead of the goji berries, the berries add incredible antioxidant properties and an array of amino acids to keep your kids energized until lunch. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, important for healthy immune systems.
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, preferably organic
- 1-1/2 cups rice, soy, or almond milk
- 2 tablespoon raisins
- 1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon, depending on your taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
- 2 tablespoons lightly toasted pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons goji berries
- 2 tablespoons raw agave nectar or 5-10 drops stevia, if desired.
In a large glass or ceramic bowl, stir together the oats, milk, raisins, cinnamon, and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate overnightablespoon In the morning, add the seeds, berries, and sweetener, and stir well. Stir in a little extra milk if necessary to achieve desired texture. Makes 2-3 servings.
(NOTE: you can add the goji berries and seeds to the bowl with the other ingredients, but my own preference is for the chewiness of dried gojis and the crunch of the seeds when added the next day).
Fig and Cherry Bars
These chewy, not-too-sweet and incredibly easy bars provide excellent nutrition in a small, portable package. Besides the whopping 140 grams of calcium per bar, these yummy treats also provide 5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein (most kids need between 20 and 50 grams per day) in each square!
- 2 cups raw natural almonds (with skin)
- 1/4 cup finely ground flax seeds (or flax meal)
- Finely grated peel of 2 lemons
- 1-1/4 cups quartered dried figs (quarter before measuring)
- 1/4 cup agave nectar
- 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 1 cup dried organic cherries (I use unsweetened)
Lightly grease a 9x9" pan, or line with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the nuts and flaxseeds, and process until you have a fine meal that begins to rise up the sides of the processor bowl. (Do not overprocess, or you'll end up with nut butter!) Using a spatula, scrape the meal down the sides of the bowl before proceeding.
Add the lemon peel, figs, agave and tahini, and process until mixture forms a moist "dough" (it will form a ball). Pinch a bit of the mixture between your fingers to test the consistency. If it sticks together and feels slightly moist, it's ready. Add the cherries and pulse just to chop and distribute them throughout the "dough."
Turn the mixture into the pan and press down very firmly with your fist or the back of a metal spatula. The mixture should be compact and solid. Cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate until firm, about an hour, or at least 20 minutes. Cut into 12 bars and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or wrap individually in plastic wrap. Mixture will keep refrigerated for up to 10 days.
Pancake Breakfast Sandwiches
Use leftover pancakes from Sunday brunch for breakfast another day. Simply spread one pancake with your favorite nut butter and/or jam, then top with another pancake for a quick and delicious breakfast. These light and foolproof pancakes are great with berries, apples, pears, or bananas. Unlike most vegan versions, they provide a good amount of protein on their own, due to the protein powder added to the batter.
- 1-3/4 cups soy or rice milk
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds or 1/2 cup silken tofu
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sunflower or other mild tasting oil
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar or maple syrup
- 1-3/4 cups whole spelt flour
- 2 tablespoons unflavored protein powder (rice or soy are ideal); you may substitute soy or chickpea flour, sifted
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup berries or chopped apple, pear or banana
Measure the soy milk into a measuring cup and add the flax, vinegar, oil and agave, stirring well. Set aside while measuring remaining ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, protein powder, baking powder, baking soda and sea saltablespoon Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix just to blend (there should still be a few lumps here and there). Gently fold in the fruitablespoon
Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat (spray the pan with olive oil spray if desired). Using an ice-cream scoop or large spoon, measure out about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake and spread slightly in the pan.
Cook about 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown and puffed up. Serve immediately. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers for later use (may be defrosted in the toaster). Makes 10-12 pancakes.
Use this smoothie as a full breakfastablespoon When you include blueberries, the kids won't know that the drink is also brimming with healthy minerals and extra protein from the greens that have "mysteriously" made their way into it! The carob powder contributes extra calcium, and the nutritional yeast extra B-vitamins and proteins, to this nutrient-dense drink.
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups soy milk, rice milk, or juice
- 1/2 cup blueberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen
- 1/2 banana, fresh or frozen
- 1/2 cup chopped mango, peaches or apricots, fresh or frozen
- 1-2 teaspoon agave nectar or maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon carob powder (optional)
- 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2-1 cup packed fresh spinach or swiss chard leaves, washed and well-drained
Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth and no specks of the greens remain. Pour into glasses immediately and enjoy! Makes 4-6 servings.
More articles on children and schooltime eating:
"A+" Ideas for School Day Breakfasts by Ricki Heller
Cool School Lunches by Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers
School (and Work!) Lunch Ideas by Bonnie Barker
Failing Our Children: The National School Lunch Program Report Card by Kerrie Saunders, Ph.D.
Obento by Sara Fujimara
The Time is Right for Getting Veggie Meals Into Schools by Susan Wieland