“Get out of the box” when it comes to what to serve your kids for breakfast, says Akua Woolbright. She should know. Woolbright, who has a Ph.D. in nutritional science, and is the nutrition program director for Whole Cities Foundation. Maybe even more important, she’s also a mom with a busy schedule – and she wants her son to have energy for school, activities and whatever else comes his way.
“I believe in eating whole foods. My mantra is, ‘Whole foods, plants strong,'” says Woolbright. When shopping for foods in general, Woolbright encourages parents to ask themselves two questions: “Does it come from nature?” and “Would my great-great-great-great-great grandmother recognize it?” With that in mind, parents can either go ahead and buy or pass on foods that don’t meet that criteria.
But even if parents are trying to eat more whole foods, that doesn’t necessarily mean kids will. That’s why it’s important to find some healthy choices that kids won’t see as a sacrifice. Here are suggestions from Woolbright and some others local food experts.
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Greg Mudge, owner of Mudgie’s Deli in Corktown, recommends this pick sure to please grilled cheese lovers. Cut an apple into thin slices and put them on a flour tortilla. Top the slices with shredded cheese (Mudge recommends smoked Gouda, but cheddar, Monterrey Jack and Muenster cheese work well, too). Add another tortilla on top and cook the quesadilla either in the microwave or in a skillet pan that’s at medium-high heat. Slice into triangles with a pizza cutter.
Tip: Crisp, slightly tart apples like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith work best. We added some honey and black pepper for extra flavor.
In a large bowl, place 2 cups whole oats (not instant or quick cooking), 2 cups low-fat milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Scoop into bowls in the morning and top with chopped nuts or dried fruit to make it extra delicious, says Woolbright.
Tip: Use almond or soy milk instead of low-fat milk if kids are dairy intolerant.
Black bean scramble
Instead of eggs and cheese, Woolbright says it’s better to use black beans as the base for your child’s morning meal. Her son can get out black beans from the fridge (Woolbright says to look for low-sodium canned black beans) and put the beans in a whole-wheat pita, whole-wheat flour tortilla – or just eat them plain.
Tip: Look for low-sodium canned black beans.
Top a healthy scoop of nonfat vanilla yogurt with sliced fruit and granola for a perfect early morning pick-me-up.
Tip: Frozen berries make an inexpensive and icy cool topping.
Banana hot dogs
Ditch the jelly and processed white bread, Woolbright advises, and use peanut butter in this sweet, satisfying surprise. Spread the peanut butter onto a whole-wheat flour tortilla and roll up with a whole, peeled banana tucked inside.
Tip: Try an alternative nut butter, like cashew or almond, for a departure from regular PB.
Looking for even more easy, healthy breakfast ideas you can whip up before school? Check out this list.
Too rushed to eat in the morning?
Preparation is key, says Woolbright.
- Create a shopping list for important items to have on hand for the week – like whole-wheat tortillas, bananas, etc.
- Schedule a regular day for grocery shopping – like Sunday afternoons or a weekday night when you aren’t as busy.
- Do some prep work over the weekend – like make overnight oatmeal or open cans of black beans and put in the fridge for kids to self-serve.
- Opt for on-the-go foods – like an apple quesadilla or banana hot dog.
This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for 2016.