No matter how old you are, you want your day to get off to a great start. Kids especially need good fuel for their brains from the minute they wake up all the way through to the evening—that homework won’t finish itself! Besides, if they aren’t able to pay attention in class during the day, they’ll wind up scrambling to catch up. Unfortunately, most of the breakfasts aimed at kids are sugar: sugary cereals (some are as much as 40% sugar by weight), sugary instant oatmeals (contrary to what the packages say, sugar-added instant oatmeal is not equivalent to non-sugared, steel-cut oats), sugary granola bars (even organic brands use ingredients like brown rice syrup and cane sugar), and sugary on-the-go-style yogurts in squirtable tubes (although Go-Gurt may advertise “25% less sugar “on its packaging, two-thirds of its carbohydrate content is sugar).
Rather than serving your kids (or yourself) sugar for breakfast, try heartier options that offer brain-boosting anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, fiber, B vitamins, and valuable minerals like calcium and iron. All of those are important nutrients for kids and adults alike, so breakfasts that are better for your kids will be better for you, too!
Wild salmon is a great source of omega-3s, as are sardines and herring. While those may not sound like breakfast foods, eggs certainly are, and eggs from pastured hens are also rich sources of omega-3 fats. Why not combine them? Mini quiches made in muffin tins make great savory breakfasts and snacks: try whisking canned wild salmon, naturally sweet veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes, and kid-friendly cheeses like Cheddar and Parmesan into the eggs before baking them. Or add those ingredients to scrambled eggs. Or use them to make omelets.
Dairy products and meats from pastured animals are also good sources of omega-3 fats, so if you don’t have time to make eggs, breakfast could be as simple as plain whole-milk Greek yogurt (from grass-fed cows) served with a drizzle of maple syrup and some berries or cut-up fruit. Want to make instant chocolate mousse? Stir 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon of maple syrup into ½ cup of plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, then taste to see if you’d like to add more cocoa and/or more maple. Serve with fruit and chopped nuts or seeds. Your kids will think they’re having parfaits for breakfast! Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fats, so bonus points if you add those to your yogurt, too. Pre-assembled yogurt parfaits can be refrigerated for 4 days. Smoothies are also a great way to start the day – I use a base of coconut milk and I sneak in a half an avocado (to be sure to get those healthy fats) and then some berries, a handful of greens, and maybe a touch of raw honey to taste. Yum!
Protein, Minerals, Vitamins & Fiber
Animal foods—including eggs, dairy products, meat, and seafood/fish—are complete proteins and also contain iron and vitamin B12, making them valuable additions to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. On the flip side, whole plant foods are excellent sources of fiber and glucose that’s slowly rather than quickly released, all of which makes for steady energy levels. Whole-grain cereals like steel-cut oats and bulgur make great alternatives to processed, sugary cereals. In fact, “cereal” was originally just cooked whole grains. You can make your own by simply simmering your favorite whole grains (millet, brown rice, quinoa, etc.) until they’re tooth-tender and then serving them as you would cereal: with milk (I use coconut milk), fruit, nuts, and/or seeds and a pinch of sea salt and/or some cinnamon and of course some real grass-fed butter (or coconut oil) for those healthy fats. Cooked whole grains can be refrigerated for a week or even frozen for several months.
In addition to fiber, richly colored produce offers an array of antioxidants, which are plant compounds that help our bodies avoid cellular damage and premature aging. Deeply hued veggies are always a great idea, and so are red, purple, and other vibrantly colored fruits, especially low-sugar fruits like berries, kiwis, and orange segments. (Always opt for the whole fruit rather than the juice!) These durable fruits can also be cut up in advance and served whenever it’s convenient.
Learn more in my book The Skinny on Fats, co-authored with Dr. David Brownstein.