School is back in session, and so is the perennial parental struggle: How to get kids to eat a good breakfast. • According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, two-thirds of teenage girls and half of teenage boys don't eat breakfast, even though it has proved to be essential to help them focus and maintain energy levels in school. Let's move our kids, no matter what age, into the habit of beginning their days healthfully. • There are three key nutrients that make up a wholesome breakfast. • Protein: Provides concentrated energy for the body, constructs the brain, repairs tissue, keeps the body satisfied longer. • Healthful fat: Supplies energy, builds the brain, slows absorption of other parts of the meal, keeping the body satisfied longer. • Fiber: Reduces risk of heart disease, lowers cholesterol, keeps the body full longer. • Serve any of these items with a side of fruit for a healthful breakfast.
Try them hard-cooked or scrambled (add veggies), or whip up an egg nest: whole grain toast with an egg fried in a hole in the middle. Tuck scrambled eggs and cheese in a whole-grain wrap and call it a breakfast burrito. Make a frittata in advance and heat up a slice, or make as muffins so they're easy to reheat, grab and go. The Dr. Seuss in your kid may appreciate green eggs and ham: Chop a handful of spinach into tiny pieces and toss with eggs before scrambling. Serve with a side of nitrate-free bacon or ham.
Start with a frozen banana. Add any combination of fresh or frozen fruit (berries, pineapple, mango, cherries). For added nutrition, throw in a handful of greens (spinach, kale). For protein, add 1 tablespoon nut butter, a handful of raw cashews or sunflower seeds, or ½ cup plain yogurt. For a creamier texture, add ½ cup almond milk or coconut milk. Add water if needed until it blends smoothly.
Grab and go options: Banana spread with nut butter; breakfast quesadilla: whole-grain tortilla spread with nut butter and sliced berries; almond pancakes or waffles (make a big batch over the weekend and reheat in the toaster); whole-grain muffins (make on Sunday for the week); oatmeal pancakes (make a big batch over the weekend and reheat in toaster).
Breakfast by the bowlful
Presoaked oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice or millet topped with honey or maple syrup and fruit (soak your grain in the fridge overnight and then just heat up); yogurt parfait with fruit and nuts or granola.
For the non-breakfast-food eater: Smoked salmon and mascarpone or cream cheese on sliced bread; whole-grain toast with sliced avocado sprinkled with salt and pepper; nitrate-free turkey or chicken sausage.
If a packaged breakfast is the only option, here are some things to consider:
Whole-grain flour should be the first ingredient after water; no trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil; less than 5 grams sugar; less than 360 mg sodium; more than 3 grams fiber. Top with fresh fruit, nuts, grade B pure maple syrup.
Best: Vans 8 Whole Grains, Kashi 7 Grain, Nature's Path Ancient Grains and 365 Multigrain.
Look for whole grains in their original form, such as oats, millet, muesli or low-sugar granola, are the most healthful. Beware of sugar: the Environmental Working Group found 47 brand-name boxed cereals have more sugar than a Twinkie or three Chips Ahoy cookies, including General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios, Wheaties Fuel, Kellogg's Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisps.
Read labels: "Whole" grain should be the first ingredient; no trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil; 8 grams sugar at most; at least 3 grams of fiber; low sodium.
Best small brands: Purely Elizabeth, Nature's Path Organics, Dorset, KIND, Udi's, Go Raw, Back to Nature.
Best big brands: Post Shredded Wheat, Post Grape-Nuts Flakes, Post Bran Flakes, Kellogg's Mini-Wheats.
Many have as much sugar and chemical ingredients as a packaged dessert. A whole grain, nut or seed should be the first ingredient; no trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil; less than 10 grams of sugar; at least 3 grams of fiber; low sodium.
Best: KIND, Lara, 18 Rabbits, Kashi (look for flavors with fewer ingredients and less sugar) ProBar.