It’s just about time to go back to school in Pennsylvania. I don’t know about you, but this is how it can go without some planning in our house:
“What do you want for breakfast?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you want _______?”
“How about __________?”
“Please look around and find something!”
You can imagine how much fun this is when your teen has to leave for the bus at 6:48 a.m. and you are having this discussion without the chance to make your coffee yet!
Why Breakfast is Important
Seriously, breakfast is really important. We know we feel better when we eat something before a demanding day. This review by Adolphus et al, in 2016 of 45 published research about the effect of breakfast found positive effects of eating breakfast as compared to skipping it for the next 4 hours on memory, executive function, and cognition.
Nutrients to Watch
The ideas I have included are vegan or vegetarian, as I think this is the healthiest option for people and our planet. Vegetarian teens need to be sure to have enough calcium, essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, zinc, iron, vitamin D, and essential fatty acids (Amit, 2010). While most can be obtained from foods, B12 is difficulty especially for vegans. You will find some in fortified cereals, plant milk alternatives, and nutritional yeast, however to have enough reliably from these foods would take a concerted effort: best to discuss a supplement with your pediatrician.
Iron is not absorbed as well from plant sources. Vegetarian teens can include a vitamin C rich food to enhance iron absorption from legumes and grains: orange juice is an easy choice. You can cut quarters of oranges or have clementines or berries. Chopped melon, mango, pineapple, or kiwis work well in smoothies. We just made some potatoes cooked with red peppers and onions, which are terrific on a cold morning and also provide vitamin C.
Choosing Nutrient Dense Foods
Kids also tend to eat too much sugar, saturated fat, and caffeine. Here is a link to a good page about the concerns with energy drinks for teens. So we know a donut and energy drink is not the way to go. Choosing nutrient dense ingredients can help young people have a healthy start to their day. Nuts, nut butters, whole grains, and soy milk are great to include. Perhaps a bean burrito, apple with almond butter, or granola cereal would appeal to your teen? This vegetarian diet pyramid from Loma Linda University is helpful, and I recommend to work with a registered dietitian nutritionist to help plan a healthy overall diet for a vegetarian child or teen.
Hence the challenge of getting a tasty quick breakfast…while packing a hot lunch – answers? Beyond my usual offers of fruit, peanut butter, soy milk, a smoothie, yogurt parfait, cereal, bagel, cereal bar, granola bar, some kind of homemade bread or muffin, or pancakes (made in advance and microwaved), I have turned to my registered dietitian nutritionist colleagues for more creative ideas to share – yes, even chocolate!
Breakfast Ideas and Recipe Links from Registered Dietitians:
Açaí Bowl – This is a is a huge hit with Bonnie Nasar RDN’s teens! Purée unsweetened açaí (found in freezer section of most health food stores) with a small amount of sweetener, banana, almond milk. Pour into a bowl & top with slivered almonds, shredded coconut, dark chocolate chips. Drizzle natural peanut butter on top. This takes less than 5 minutes to prep in the morning & the kids love it. You can also put it into a container for them to eat on the go. www.nasarnutrition.com
Chocolate Quinoa – packed with protein for staying power is the perfect make ahead meal. Swap the milk for light canned coconut milk for extra richness. Warm up for a hot breakfast or eat right out of the fridge- both are yummy. Top with sliced bananas and almonds or get creative and add cocoa nibs or any variety of chopped nuts! – from Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD
Overnight Oat Parfaits – They can be made the night before by combining all ingredients in a jar, refrigerating, and enjoying in the morning! Rebecca Bitzer RD likes using non-fat Greek yogurt, a 1/4 cup of granola and frozen berries that thaw overnight to add extra juice which naturally sweetens the yogurt. Leanne Ray MS, RDN provides a basic recipe and some delicious flavor ideas including mocha latte in her blog post.
Pumpkin Smoothie – What could be better for the fall. right? From Tracie Yablon Brenner RDN, CHHC.
Sweet Potato Blueberry Baked Oatmeal – this sweet potato blueberry baked oatmeal is a staple for busy mornings. Make it ahead of time, and grab a slice to go. Each serving is filled with satiating whole grains, complex carbohydrates, and fruit and veggies! From Sarah Schlichter RD, MPH.
Breakfast Cookies – Everyone likes a cookie, right? Check out these vegan make-ahead ones from Nicole Stevens MS, RD.
This Lemon Raspberry breakfast cookie from Kara Lydon RD, LDN, RYT would be appropriate for an ovolacto-vegetarian.
Peanut Butter and Banana Sushi – creative name for this idea from Lauren Harris-Pincus MS, RDN, LDN which is a wrap with banana and peanut butter. This would be a great grab and go item on the way to the bus stop, or an after-school snack.
Breakfast Sweet Potato – from Food and Nutrition Magazine of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Great use of leftovers too, from Tawny Kroll, RDN.
I hope these ideas help you and your kids with a tasty and positive start to your days!
Amit M. Vegetarian diets in children and adolescents. Paediatr Child Health. 2010;15(5):303–314.
Adolphus, K., Lawton, C., Champ, C. and Dye, L. The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Advances in Nutrition, 2016; 7(3), pp.590S-612S.