By Peter Jaret, M.A.
Finding time to make your child breakfast -- not to mention getting him to eat it -- can be a struggle. Usually he's halfway to school before you can say, "OJ."
The good news is that you don't have to provide a complete meal every morning. What's important is getting your child out the door with a dose of energy and at least a few essential nutrients. Here are some ways to give him what he needs.
No Time to Linger: Breakfast in Seconds
If it's all you can do to hand your child something as he rushes out the door, take heart. Here are a few handoffs that will get him going in the morning:
- Granola bars. Loaded with fiber from whole grains, granola bars are a great source of energy in the form of carbohydrates. Studies show that children are mentally sharper when they've eaten something, and brain cells need a constant supply of carbohydrates. Look for the ones with the lowest sugar content.
- Whole wheat bagel with peanut butter. Whole-grain bagels such as whole wheat and rye have more fiber than the plain or seeded varieties. Peanut butter is great source of protein, and the fat in the "natural" varieties doesn't clog arteries.
- Oat bran muffin. With more fiber and less fat than a typical blueberry muffin, oat bran muffins also provide surprising amounts of potassium and magnesium.
- Fruit. Apples are high in fiber and refreshing. Bananas top all other fresh fruits as a source of potassium, a mineral that kids lose during physical activity. A snack-size box of raisins is loaded with energy-giving carbohydrates and high in fiber. By keeping your child's blood sugar level from slipping, fruit staves off a mid-morning slump.
Eat and Run: Nutritious Two-Minute Meals
If your child can pause at the kitchen counter for just a minute or two, it's easy to whip up an energizing and nutritious breakfast treat that he'll gulp down with delight.
- Orange-banana smoothie. Orange juice, low-fat or nonfat yogurt, and a banana are all you need to blend up a taste treat that's high in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and calcium.
- Very berry smoothie. Blend a banana, a splash of cranberry or apple juice, and a handful of fresh or frozen berries, which are exceptionally rich in antioxidants (substances that combat cancerous changes in cells).
- Down under delight. Believe it or not, when researchers tallied up the nutritional value of popular fruits, kiwis came out on top. Peel one and zap it in the blender with a banana, apple juice, and your child's favorite berries.
- Fruit salad. Prepare a big fruit salad on Sunday that you can parcel out during the week. Add a dollop of yogurt to each serving for extra protein and calcium.
- Toaster treats. Frozen waffles take almost no time to make. Choose whole grain varieties for a dose of fiber, and top them with berries or sliced bananas instead of syrup.
Ten Minutes to Spare: Pour on the Flakes
Experts say the healthiest breakfast choice around is cereal with low-fat or nonfat milk. The combo is high in calcium, low in fat, and -- if you choose a whole grain variety -- loaded with fiber. Plus, all cereals these days are fortified with important nutrients like the B vitamin called folic acid. Let your child pick a brand he likes, but steer him away from the ones that are coated with sugar. Encourage him to sweeten his cereal with raisins or other fruit, instead. Place a tall glass of juice alongside the bowl, and the vitamin C will help his body absorb the cereal's iron. Here are three high-fiber, low-sugar cereal superstars:
- Wheat or oat flakes. The breakfast of athletic heroes, whole wheat (or oat) flake cereals fill your child up and keep him going. Look for varieties with at least 5 grams of fiber and no more than a few grams of sugar per serving.
- Grape-Nuts. With no added sugar and the goodness of whole grains, the original Grape-Nuts is one of the best choices on the shelf. Raisins make it more appealing to youngsters.
- Cheerios. These little O's have always been a hit with children. But nutritionists love them because they're made of whole grains and have only 2 grams of sugar per serving. The best choice may be Multi-Grain Cheerios Plus: It's packed with vitamins and minerals.
- Instant oatmeal. A minute in the microwave is all it takes to produce a steaming bowl of nutritious high-fiber oatmeal, a comforting choice in wintertime. Add raisins for some sweet energy.
Roberta Larson Duyuff, MS, RD, CFCS, The American Dietetic Association's Complete Food & Nutrition Guide. Chronimed Publishing.
American Medical Association, Good Food That's Good For You: Good Nutrition at Every Age
American Academy of Pediatrics, Nutrional Needs of School-Age Children
American Heart Assocation. Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Dietary-Recommendations-for-Healthy-Children_UCM_303886_Article.jsp