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Start the day nutritiously for children heading off to school

Associated Press

Associated Press

Controlling what your children eat when they are out of your sight is like trying to convince them you are cool. I suppose it can be done, but not without a whole lot of effort.

Rather than focus on lunch, put the emphasis on breakfast, a meal that you can supervise. Eating something before they leave for school in the morning helps fuel children for the rigors ahead, making them more attentive and pleasant to be around.

We all know the dangers of a kid on an empty stomach.

As you begin to plan those morning meals, make sure you know what time lunch break is scheduled. For a kid who is eating lunch at 10:30 a.m., a full breakfast might not be necessary. If lunch is at 1 p.m., consider a more substantial meal.

The other necessary bit of knowledge is your child's eating habits, especially likes/dislikes and disposition in the morning. My son would eat lunch three times a day, so sandwiches and leftover chicken always played well in the morning. Scrambled eggs? Not so much.

Here are 10 breakfast ideas to suit vegetarians, on-the-go eaters and even morning grouches.

1 Handheld nutrition. Burritos are easy to eat in the car if you are running late, plus a variety of fillings make them fit lots of different tastes. Bean burritos for vegans; egg, cheese and bacon for omnivores. Heck, even peanut butter and jelly can be rolled up in a warmed flour tortilla.

2 Party food. Consider finger foods for picky eaters. Make kebabs of cheese cubes and fruit, such as cheddar and apple chunks. Grapes go nicely with ham cubes.

3 Pretty enough to eat. Make parfaits in clear, tall glasses by layering granola and yogurt and drizzling with maple syrup. The presentation makes them special.

4 DIY meal. Leftovers are a perfect choice for kids who make their own breakfasts. Lasagna, chili, spaghetti, chicken, just about anything, really, can be zapped in the microwave and ready in minutes. Lots of people like cold pizza, too.

5 Fruit lovers. Smoothies are big with teenagers and include both fiber and carbs. Adding tofu, peanut butter or dairy provides protein that will give them longer-lasting energy.

6 Morning scramble. If you can find the time in the morning, scramble eggs and add diced ham, cheddar cheese and maybe even some chives if you want to be fancy. Sort of like an omelet.

7 Sweet and savory. Lovers of sweets might be lured with a sandwich of cinnamon toast with thinly shaved turkey, a carrot muffin (not chocolate chip!) slathered with cream cheese, or two small frozen whole wheat waffles, toasted, spread with maple butter and sandwiched with a maple-flavored turkey sausage.

8 A rocky start. Expect conversation from your morning grump and risk getting bitten yourself. Hammer out the breakfast plan the night before. Cereal is easy, but look for something that's not sugar-laden and nutrient-bereft. Breakfast bars and yogurt might work, but so might a calming cup of hot tea and toast with peanut butter.

9 Hearty eaters. An omelet loaded with veggies and cheese, plus whole wheat toast, is a good choice. Bagels offer a base for all kinds of embellishment including flavored cream cheese spreads; cream cheese and preserves; turkey cheese; peanut butter, sliced banana and honey; or spreadable cheese, tomato slices and bacon. Even if you've got a big eater, go for a smaller bagel. The bigger ones are a full day's allotment of bread. Augment with fruit instead.

10 Waist-watcher. Discourage dieting teens and tweens from skipping the morning meal. A hard-boiled egg and an orange is less than 200 calories. A scoop of low-fat cottage cheese and fresh strawberries is also less than 200. Likewise a nectarine and string cheese.

Reach Janet K. Keeler at jkeeler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8586.

Start the day nutritiously for children heading off to school 08/02/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 2, 2013 5:30pm]

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