During the school year, mornings are hectic getting kids ready and out the door. We can’t help you wrangle them into khakis, but we may be able to help you set up a breakfast routine that’s easy, healthy and cost-effective.
There are over 60 years of brunch experience among Chef Michael Keys of Red Crown in Grosse Pointe Park, Jennifer Williams of Le Andos Cafe in Macomb Township and Regan Bloom of Toast in Ferndale and Birmingham. These three are also no strangers to picky kids in the morning or demanding schedules.
“We (were) two parents always on the go. She would take the morning/breakfast shift and I’d be on the dinner shift, and sometimes we’d switch,” says Keys, who has three grown sons.
Meanwhile, Bloom has to meet the competing demands of a 12-year-old vegetarian and 7-year-old carnivore. And when Williams’ 25-year-old son was in an accident three years ago, she found herself back in the caretaker position, having to figure out ways to get him the nutrition he needed.
All three chefs know through work and life experiences how to make breakfast as simple and nutritious as possible.
Here are their tips to make back-to-school breakfasts a breeze.
1. Meal prep
“Meal prep is a word even kids know now,” Keys says. All three chefs suggest cutting fruits and vegetables ahead of time, pre-mixing batters for pancakes, waffles or French toast, and pre-cooking breakfast meats so you just have to heat them up.
For grab-and-go breakfasts, Keys suggests pre-portioning homemade trail mix. Or make muffins at the beginning of the week, Bloom adds, and keep hard-boiled eggs on hand.
2. Protein > carbs
“Lots of protein in the morning – lots,” Williams says. The chefs agree that carbs like sugary cereals will give your kids a sugar high … and they’ll crash around lunchtime.
“Carbs have so much sugar and, learning about nutrition, you realize that carb bombs are so bad in the morning,” Bloom says. So switch out the cereal with protein-rich granola. Stick to staples like eggs and, when you do go for carbs, make sure you balance them with protein.
3. Get the kids involved
“They all want to do it. Get them a little apron, a cutting board, set up a station next to you so they can watch and they’ll want to help,” Keys says. “Oh man, and if they get to use a knife, they think it’s the coolest thing.”
Bloom adds, “I get a lot more enthusiasm for any meal if they’re able to choose what they want and help make it.”
Bloom also says that when you talk about what you’re having beforehand, kids are less likely to turn it down. She suggests looking up recipes with them on Pinterest or watching YouTube tutorials. Cooking as a family will help you bond and teach kids an important life skill.
4. Shake it up
“If breakfast doesn’t work out, the best option is to make a smoothie and hide healthy ingredients or things kids don’t like,” Williams says. Or try the smoothie/breakfast shake method, Bloom says. It’s fast and healthy – and what kid would refuse a shake for breakfast?
5. Stop buying pre-processed
Beyond health, there’s another reason to stop buying processed foods: cost. “All the money is in the processing,” Keys says. “If you can do it yourself, you can save a fortune, and you teach kids to respect where their food comes from.”
Cool the oven
Looking to treat the kids to a meal out? Try our local expert chefs’ restaurants.
Southern comfort food in a renovated 1932 gas station. Stop by on weekends for some silver dollar pancakes.
Brunch hotspot serving up classic breakfasts with a twist. Your kids will love the granola parfait as much as owner Regan Bloom’s own daughters.
Family-owned and operated with a big menu of savory and sweet options. Voted a best brunch spot in Michigan by People Magazine. The Oreo pancakes are a must-try.