Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Basic Breakfast

So normally this is all about lunch, but a friend was asking what we do about breakfast, and I thought I'd share with the class. Frankly, 4+ years of parenting has eroded my tendencies to be a morning person, and I grew up on Froot Loops and whatnot for breakfast anyway--so you are not going to see my weekday breakfast table piled high. Yet especially if you are going five or more hours from breakfast to lunch, cereal doesn't really cut it... and even without considering the sugar overload, T's unpleasant reaction to food coloring eliminates the cereals I ate as a kid and a fair number I'd otherwise eat now (Et tu, Basic 4?!).

Skipping breakfast is literally never an option for me, as I will be a wreck by 10 AM at the latest. I can only imagine how T would be without food in the morning--this kid eats breakfasts, plural. Just as with lunch or dinner, nutrition starts at the grocery store. Here are my suggestions. We have at least a few of these available every day to choose from.

Yogurt. Growing kids can have whole-milk yogurt; grown-ups should choose low-fat or nonfat. I'm so tired of reading labels nowadays to screen for artificial ingredients that I grab something certified organic or make my own. (Not hard! Really!) One little cup is not enough for a full breakfast, so choose something else, too. Sprinkle a little granola or wheat germ on the top if you like.

Fresh fruit.
Worst case scenario is a banana grabbed on the way out the door, but with only ~70 calories, that's not a full meal. Oranges are fine for those with the patience to peel and de-seed at sunrise, but again, that's a side dish. Better is to make some fruit salad the night before and have it in the fridge, ready to entice your newly wakened family. (What to put in it? Well, what fruits do you like? Watermelon, blueberries, and green grapes would be a nice start.) Fruit salad is nice with some vanilla yogurt, too.

Homemade muffins in the freezer. Make a batch on the weekend and freeze in freezer bags. Defrost one on a plate in the microwave for 30 seconds or so. My secret for making muffins with a texture I like is to use a recipe for a quick bread instead (pumpkin bread rather than pumpkin muffins, banana bread rather than banana muffins, etc.). has a zillion of them.

Quick oats, not instant.
Instant comes in the little packets with flavoring, but then 1) You have to eat two, because one is not enough; 2) You are stuck with whatever flavor is in the box; 3) Instant costs more; AND 4) Instant is not actually faster unless you have boiling water on tap. So I buy the quick oats. I microwave (in a glass bowl) 1/2 cup quick oats mixed with about 3/4 cup of water, and it's done in about 45 seconds. Stir in whatever you want--I put in 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and some raisins and crumbled pecans.

Trail mix. Cheerios (original kind) + almonds or peanuts + small dried fruit + just a couple of chocolate chips or yogurt-covered raisins. Maybe some other cereal, too, if you like. Trail mix is far more portable than a bowl of cereal, and never soggy. Make up a big container full if you like.

Leftovers. If it was a healthy dinner, it can be a healthy breakfast. There is nothing wrong with some leftover veggie pizza or anything else that was good enough to eat twelve hours ago (assuming you refrigerated it promptly, of course).

Beverages. For a growing child, offer a side of milk or slightly diluted 100% fruit juice to add more calories. Or consider a smoothie! T likes rice milk + strawberries + a banana + baby spinach. (No, you don't taste the spinach.) Pumpkin + vanilla yogurt + nutmeg and cinnamon + milk is also nice. You can even make a smoothie the night before, though you'll have to shake it or stir it before drinking. Large mason jars are handy for that. A smoothie is great with a muffin.

One I haven't done myself, but looks clever: eggs baked in a muffin tin or ramekins. Mini veggie quiches would be especially nutritious. Again, do it on the weekend and warm it up when you want to eat. Might be nice with an English muffin (look for whole wheat).

What other great breakfast ideas have you discovered for busy mornings?