5 Healthier breakfast options

So last week I declared the end of our family’s frozen waffles for breakfast rut.  Among other things, in 2013 I gave myself a goal of making a healthier breakfast every day, leaving the boxed frozen waffles in the freezer and the cold cereal on the shelf.

Last weekend I asked for the help of Simple Kids readers, taking the conversation over to facebook where, every morning, I checked in with what we had for breakfast. No fancy challenge or anything like that, just simply checking in each morning and reporting on what our kids had for breakfast on the facebook page. It was great!  You guys really encouraged me.  Thank you!

This morning I’m back with a wrap-up of our week and five healthier breakfast ideas for kids.

Monday: Parfaits

Here’s the truth:  when they came down to breakfast one of the first things my kids did was ask me where our usual boxed waffles were.  However, thanks to some jelly glasses and the novelty of a pretty layered parfait for breakfast  (“just like dessert, mama”) I was able to win them over and get something nutritious in them to start the day. Two of my kiddos even opted for seconds.

Our breakfast parfaits were layered with:

  • Greek yogurt
  • pecan maple granola
  • sliced bananas
  • frozen blueberries

One thing I did notice was that everyone seemed hungry again an hour later.  While I don’t mind a hobbit’s serving of second breakfast, next time I’ll serve larger portions than jelly jar sized to keep bellies full until morning snack time.

Overall, everyone enjoyed these and they were pretty easy to put together – perfect for a Monday morning.

Tuesday: Banana Walnut Muffins

On Tuesday, I served banana walnut muffins along with apple cider.  The recipe I used was a variation on Katie Kimball’s Pumpkin muffin recipe from Healthy Snacks to Go (which you can now get in paperback from Amazon in addition to the ebook version).

The morning didn’t go exactly as planned and the prep took a bit longer because I had two little early bird helpers up with me, which always adds some time to cooking.  But while they were baking the house smelled so delicious and it was nice to spend the quiet early morning hours with my 17 month old and four year old before the rest of the family was awake and the day officially started.

It was a nice bonus to be able to pack some fresh-baked muffins into my husband’s lunchbox, too.

Max, my six year old, was not impressed and made himself a pb’n’j for breakfast but later his curiosity got the better of him and he asked to try one and ended up liking them, although he did request that next time I leave out the walnuts.  I’m confident that with a bit of trial and error I’ll find a muffin combination that will please all of my kids.

Another successful breakfast.

Wednesday: Leftovers and eggs

Yes, that’s right:  on Wednesday I served leftovers for breakfast.

We had potato, spinach, and portabello mushrooms for dinner the night before and in the morning I reheated them with a few scrambled eggs, grated a bit of cheddar over the top, and gave the kids the option to wrap it in a tortilla as a sort of breakfast burrito. I added some salsa to my own.

It might not have been the prettiest thing to look at, but it was warm, filling, and it was eaten up right away by my hungry crew, who didn’t seem to mind that it was just a variation on what they  had had for dinner the night before.

It was delicious and fun, if I do say so myself.  It took about fifteen minutes to pull together a serving for everyone, but that is still fairly quick for a mid-week breakfast.  I think there are probably a number of leftover options that this scrambled egg addition would work well with, too.

Thursday: Oatmeal and a toppings bar

We went with an old stand-by for breakfast on Thursday: oatmeal with your choice of chopped apples, honey, walnuts, raisins, and sliced bananas for toppings.  I sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on top, too. This is a tried and true breakfast for us, one that I know my whole family enjoys.

Oatmeal is fairly easy, not too time consuming, and warming on a chilly day.  And, of course, the variety of toppings makes all the difference when serving oatmeal to picky kids for breakfast.  The more the merrier!

Friday: In a hurry!

Friday ended up being a crazy morning.  A late start and a busy day meant we were in a hurry and I was very tempted to reach for something easy and pre-made.  So I did!  I grabbed a few slices of homemade bread, topped it with butter, sliced up some cheddar cheese, and a few kiwis.  Ta da!  It wasn’t fancy, but breakfast was served and in under five minutes.

Full disclosure:  Max ate pizza leftover from the night before – are you noticing that the decenter is usually the same character in this little breakfast saga?  Ha ha!  Since it was  basically bread with cheese and a veggie based sauce, I decided that was totally fine.

And, we made it!  Five healthier week day breakfasts:  mission accomplished.

On Saturday, I was craving comfort food, so I made a big batch of very gooey cinnamon rolls with extra icing.  The irony of doing this after a week where I was striving for a healthy breakfast was not lost of me, but I decided that a once a week splurge was acceptable.

A few breakfast conclusions…

I learned from last week that busy mornings and unexpected events are just going to happen, even in the most well planned week, so I should prepare for them.  Keeping that in mind, I’ve decided to look for a  homemade waffle recipe that I can whip up a large batch of to freeze.  Hmmmm, I wonder if my friend Aimee can help me out with that?

I also learned that a little grumbling when I make changes to their usual menu is to be expected, but I’m not going to let the occasional lament for candy-coated kids cereal (that is neither lucky nor charming) or that yellow box of freezer waffles keep me from my goal of giving my family healthier breakfast options in 2013.

This week taught me that it is sometimes a good idea to let the kids make their own breakfast if they don’t like what I’m serving.  I’m still  making just one meal, they get a bit of independence in the kitchen, and as long as there are plenty of healthy options, everyone ends up happy.

To do going forward:

I think I can keep going, now that we’ve gotten off to such a good start in the breakfast department, and I believe I can even add some ideas in to make mornings even healthier.

A few mini-goals:

  • make a batch of waffles from scratch to keep in the freezer for “in a hurry” mornings
  • make homemade granola
  • make homemade tortillas
  • try a healthy version of a breakfast cookie
  • allow my kids, especially my son who tends to be on the picky side when it comes to breakfast, more independence in the kitchen and work with them to plan and provide breakfast options that they can prepare themselves
  • prepare a breakfast meal plan the same way I plan for dinners during the week
  • let Saturdays be a slightly sweeter day in a week of healthy eating

Thank you to all of you who joined in on facebook and on Instagram last week with your breakfast encouragement!  I really appreciated your input and you helped me stay on track with my goals for the week.

And, friends?  I feel it must be said that if you are currently in a toaster waffles and cold cereal season of life, as I have found myself many, many times, please know that there’s no need to find yourself feeling guilty, okay?  We all do what we have to do and there are certainly larger things in life to worry about than a few shortcuts in the kitchen.  Be gentle on yourselves.

What are some of you favorite healthy breakfast ideas for kids?  How do you handle the early morning rush and get the day off to a healthy start?

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

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  1. Good for you, Kara! I love your ideas. We have a tiresome habit of being short order cooks in the morning. We are just so desperate for the morning to go smoothly as we all head out the door. A few strategies keep our breakfasts quick and healthy, including our homemade instant oatmeal packets and having a variety of fruit on hand. 🙂
    Robin from Frugal Family Times´s latest post: Recipe: Pull-Apart Monkey Bread with 5 Minute Dough

  2. Great suggestions!
    In europe, it is very common to eat leftover dinner for breakfast. Leftover pasta with its sauce, mixed with a few eggs and topped with parmezan in the oven is a classic. Spinach pies, cheesepies, mushroom pies etc are also very common

    • spinach pie for breakfast sounds fantastic!

      Yes, I think leftovers for breakfast is going to stick in the routine. It works, it is delicious, and waste not, want not 🙂

  3. We’d gotten into the habit of cold cereal every morning for breakfast. And since I love cereal, it often spilled over into snacks or dinner…

    So I simply stopped buying it. Now we eat oatmeal 6 days a week for breakfast and one day a week we make a big breakfast of some sort. Thankfully my kiddo really likes oatmeal so it hasn’t been too much of a struggle.
    Steph´s latest post: Rotating Books & Stuffed Animals

    • I, too, tried to “simply stop buying it” and had a revolt on my hands! They’re only 2 and 5 but man can they scream for their cereal! So, for now we’re back on cereal but my compromise is no funny colors or marshmallows. 🙂 I’ll try again soon (maybe)

      • That sounds like a good compromise me to 🙂

        Morning time sets the tone for the day, at least it does in our house, and no one wants to start off with a revolt 🙂

    • I don’t mind cereal, really, even as a snack … but over the holidays and some time with relatives and the disparity between what *I* think is a good cereal choice and what my *kids* think is a good choice became very wide 😉

      For us, for right now, it was best to go “cold turkey” and just cut it out completely.

  4. These all look absolutely delicious! Thank you!

    Here are a few of our family’s favorites: http://seamlessdays.wordpress.com/recipes/

    Ten Grain Cereal Bread
    Banana Blueberry Oat Muffins
    Blueberry Spinach Smoothies (can’t taste the spinach!)
    Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats
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  5. The parfait looks so yummy!

    I’m still working on breakfast time. Occasionally we have baked oatmeal and I make it the night before. That is always nice.

    The best thing for me is when my oldest daughter makes protein pancakes!
    Stacy @ A Delightful Home´s latest post: How to make a banner to highlight your goals

    • I’ve been nervous about doing the overnight oatmeal thing. My crockpot sometimes seems like it runs super hot, even on low. Do you ever burn it? Or do you use something besides a crockpot to make it?

  6. This is the best whole-grain pancake recipe ever, and can also make waffles. I never feel guilty about giving this to my kids, even with a mashed banana and choc chips thrown in!
    Steph´s latest post: There’s no place like home

  7. Love these ideas! And how smart to plan out breakfasts- I’ve been doing this for a long time with dinner but have just never quite made the shift to breakfast.
    Stacey´s latest post: Turn Reluctant Readers into Bookworms

  8. We don’t eat waffles very often but when we do I always make them from scratch (I found a recipe in a cookbook). It is so super simple and they freeze well. Just let them fully cool before sticking them in the freezer and they make a great quick breakfast.

  9. I loved all these ideas! I try to change it up, but I currently have a picky eater. I wanted to give you a tip about adding nuts to breads/muffins. I grind up my walnuts super fine and then add them in that way. If the crunchy texture is the problem then this solves it. I haven’t had any complaints…………. 😉

  10. Great post!! I love all these suggestions, as well as the reminder that even though we’re striving to be as healthy as can be, deciding to indulge once in a while isn’t a crime. I also like your suggestion to let the kids make their own alternative if necessary. We want a healthy meal and we also want a happy, peaceful meal!

  11. I make breakfast cookies, but rarely eat them for breakfast. We call them nursing cookies instead because they help me when I’m absolutely starving from making milk and can’t think of anything else to eat! 🙂 Anyway, they’re relatively low in sugar (especially if you don’t add chocolate) and have quite a bit of protein in them.
    Laura´s latest post: Mark, In Blue, For the First Time

  12. This is such a great idea. My son always gets tired of the same cereal and frozen waffles every morning. I bet the parfiat would be a hit with him. He is a very picky eater and its nice when I find ideas to get him to eat healthier foods.
    Tanya´s latest post: Making a Fresh Start in the New Year

  13. Tiffany R says:

    I keep several homemade breakfast options in the freezer to be heated up before school. I have homemade waffles, pancakes, biscuits and mini egg casseroles (with egg, cheese and sausage). I also make my daughter a few hard boiled eggs during the week and keep them in the fridge so she can have one with breakfast in the morning. It makes the morning quick and easy. Today I made a baked blueberry oatmeal but alas, I was the only one who ate it.

  14. Elizabeth Kane says:

    I have the habit of getting into a real breakfast rut. Once I like something, I work it hard and end up getting sick of it! But that parfait looks great, and so do those banana walnut muffins. Is it just me or is apple cider (my *favorite* winter drink) making an appearance with them? 🙂

    I did oatmeal this morning – turned out not so yum worthy. I’m going to grab another recipe before tomorrow morning and try a toppings bar too. Thanks for your ideas, Kara!

  15. Just wanted to share my favorite waffle recipe since you are on the hunt: http://mommablogsalot.com/2011/05/19/momma-cooks-yummy-waffles-i-could-make-blindfolded/ I have been making these for two years now and I love them.
    Jen E @ mommablogsalot´s latest post: one moment: ca-click!

  16. I am hooked on homemade waffles from the freezer. May I suggest, do a double batch for breakfast some unhurried day, feed them to your kids and freeze the rest flat on cookie sheets in a single layer. When frozen wrap them up tightly. I’ve added 1/2-3/4 cup of mashed sweet potato (leftovers again) or mashed banana to them (using Aimee’s buckwheat pancake mix!). You can also add flax seed meal and or wheat germ for “freckled” waffles!

  17. Love this and thank you for your last paragraph…it brought tears to my eyes!

  18. Loretta S. says:

    We always keep homemade frozen muffins on hand too. Usually cranberry orange, blueberry, and banana chocolate chip ones are there ready to go. Make them after your kids go to bed (it’ll take ya 15 mins with no little ones, I promise), sub in whole wheat flour for half of the all purpose, toss in a couple tablespoons of ground flax and wheat germ. Microwave them for one minute in the morning plus some yogurt, and one piece of fresh fruit and they are good to go.

  19. Sarah B R says:

    I have a series on my blog on Healthy Breakfasts for Kids: http://themartialmother.com/303/healthy-breakfast-for-kids-master-post/
    You may like the coconut oatmeal and pumpkin oatmeal recipes

  20. We make large batches and freeze whole wheat pancakes, French toast and muffins. Oatmeal, with either granola or ‘bottom of the bag’ cereal crumbs for topping, is another favorite too. We mix up blended spinach or kale into scrambled eggs…and optionally, cover with a slice of cheese, or make an egg sandwich on toast.

  21. These are great ideas. One thing I’ve done, as a single working mother of two, to simplify my life in the morning is I have designated each day of the week to cook a particular breakfast item, ie, Mon is eggs, Tues, oatmeal, Weds, pancakes or waffles, Thursday, yogurt and granola w a free choice for toppings and Fri is some kind of sandwich. It’s made our mornings so much easier bc I don’t have to decide WHAT to cook, just how to cook it. And besides the occasional bagel (I mean, maybe twice/year) and the crazy week in July I have to be at work at 6:15 and we do Panera then, I cook real, homemade breakfast every.single.day.

    Just a thought of something that worked for us!

    • I like the way you are thinking there with the themed breakfast days. It works for dinner, so why not breakfast? Smart 🙂

  22. Our favorite muffin recipe is the Toddler Muffin recipe at allrecipes.com. It’s calls for banana, jarred squash, and grated carrots. I make a big batch and store extras in the freezer. They defrost beautifully. And they are a great way to start the day with some vegetables!

  23. yum! I love the idea of the oatmeal bar (we eat it almost every day- and try to make things different by varying the toppings)
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)´s latest post: First World Problems for Priest’s Wife: Mold, Asbestos, Termites, Bad Pipes

  24. We do a fair number of Eggos around here – for the mornings when we need to be somewhere (church, etc). Eleanor is the world’s slowest breakfast eater… and it will literally add 30-40 minutes to the morning routine. So I grab a blueberry Eggo for her, and toast a breakfast sandwich for me and/or Noel, and we eat in the car. I try not to do waffles on at-home mornings though.
    And for our breakfast sandwiches – on the weekend I’ll cook up a dozen eggs, and get out a dozen english muffins. One egg per muffin, a little sprinkle of cheese and a dash of hot sauce, then I wrap them individually in foil and freeze them. They’re really easy to grab and quickly microwave or toast in the morning… and it’s nice to know exactly how many calories are in my breakfast. 🙂

  25. Great suggestions here! I want to add my support to the idea of making a big batch of things (muffins, waffles/pancakes, egg souffle cups, etc.) and sticking them in the freezer – so helpful for busy mornings. And what morning with kids is not busy?!
    I will also say that I’ve been trying something new with my 4.5 yr old – we talk about breakfast the night before. That way, he has some say in what it is and he’s prepared to eat it, plus I’m prepared to make it!

    • “I will also say that I’ve been trying something new with my 4.5 yr old – we talk about breakfast the night before. That way, he has some say in what it is and he’s prepared to eat it, plus I’m prepared to make it!”

      That is a fantastic tip! I think that might help the transition with Max, who seems to be the one having the most trouble with the break in our normal morning routine. Normally he comes around later in the morning and at least tries what I made, but I wonder if just giving him more time to prepare for something new (by talking to him the night before, as you suggest) wouldn’t be really beneficial to him? Thank you 🙂

  26. One thing I’ve found really helpful and shockingly easy are frittatas. I make one on Sunday (it literally takes 5 minutes to put the eggs, cheese, and leftover veggies/meat together) and then cut it up in squares to reheat during the week for breakfast. My four and two year old gobble them up. They also love to help put it together. I’ve also found it helpful to have certain days designated to certain foods so that all of you know what to expect and you can get in to some sort of routine based around outside activities. I try to make as much ahead of time as possible. I’m not a morning person 🙂 Good luck on your breakfast adventure!

  27. Some great options, I wish we were not avoiding grains and gluten 🙁 I find it extremely hard making breakfasts that are grain free. I mean the gluten free pancakes just aren’t the same and toast with honey in the morning just seems so yummy!
    Natalie´s latest post: Mini Wooden Play Kitchen Set, Natural & Organic by Rewoodtoys

  28. We do oatmeal with many different toppings probably 4 days per week! There are so many options, and I love that it fills my kids up for the rest of the morning.
    Hillary´s latest post: Upcoming seminar on Anxiety in Kids ~ Portland area

  29. You might like the crock pot steel oats. I’ve found quite a few recipes on pinterest. With the diverse group of kiddo taste buds you may want to keep it plain and add the toppings bar. I’m still experimenting, but yesterday’s batch for four had two tablespoons of brown sugar, two chopped apples, cinnamon, milk and a touch of butter. My family likes it premade, no additions needed. They also like blueberry

  30. Fun options! We do a lot of eggs and raisin toast, oatmeal with different toppings, cereal and breakfast burritos. To beat the morning rush I make frozen burritos so I can just pull them out and heat them up. We like eggs, ham and cheese or eggs, chorizo and potato. Yum.
    Mel@ThDizzyMom´s latest post: The ABC’s of Mama Survival: P-T


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