A great way to start the day, the right way

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By Cindy Bjorkquist

Director of Health and Wellness Programs at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Summer has come and gone, and it’s time for kids to swap summer activities for homework. With a new school year beginning, it’s the perfect time to start thinking of ways to integrate healthier foods into the school day that the whole family will enjoy.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but also the one that’s most often skipped. The hustle and bustle of chaotic mornings during the school year mean trying to gets kids dressed and ready for school, pack lunches, catch the bus and get yourself to work on time — all things that make breakfast an easy meal to miss.

Sending your kid off to school with a full belly is important because it provides them with the energy they need to concentrate in the classroom and prevents that mid-morning slump. Children who eat breakfast perform much better in their schoolwork and have more energy throughout the day for physical activities. Eating breakfast consistently helps children maintain a healthy weight.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be another morning chore. It can be a quick and easy step to integrate into your morning routine. Skip the usual sugary cereal and give kids healthier choices with options that are probably already in your kitchen. Focus on providing kids a balanced breakfast that contains protein, nutrients, healthy fats and carbohydrates. A balanced breakfast keeps everyone fuller longer.

And remember to make enough for Mom and Dad while making these tasty breakfast dishes for the kids. Not only do parents serve as role models for their kids when it comes to eating, we also benefit greatly by starting our day off with a healthy breakfast too.

Here are 5 quick and easy breakfast ideas to get the day off to a healthy and tasty start:

  1. Banana Sandwich: Swap a high fat, high calorie egg, bacon and cheese sandwich for a much healthier fruit counterpart. Slice a banana right down the middle in half. Spread peanut butter or almond butter on both halves of the banana for added protein. Squeeze out a half of a tablespoon of honey onto each banana slice. Sprinkle nuts of your choice, raisins or trail mix on top of the honey for a good source of fiber.
  2. Breakfast Popsicles: Popsicles for breakfast, just think how easy that will be to sell to your kids! Mix low-fat yogurt of your choice (use Greek yogurt for an extra boost of protein to stay full longer) into a bowl with your favorite fruit. Pour the mix into a popsicle container and place in freezer overnight. In the morning you’ll have a nutritious breakfast kids will love and can even be enjoyed on
    the go!
  3. Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie: Begin by placing yogurt in a blender and adding a generous helping of your favorite fruit, or multiple fruits for added flavor. Add in one cup of ice and blend. Add extra ice as preferred. It’s a quick morning favorite your kids will love.
  4. Fruit and Yogurt Parfait: Pretty layers of yogurt, granola and fruit in a bowl or cup will make your kids think they’re eating dessert, not breakfast. A parfait gives kids the calcium and energy boost they need to start the school day. Like many of these recipes, it’s also easily portable for a child or busy mom to grab in a hurry.
  5. English Muffin Egg Pizzas: First popsicles, now pizza? Kid-friendly names often make new recipes more appealing to young, picky eaters. Skip the fast food version and make a healthy breakfast muffin in minutes. Hard boil eggs the night before to shave off prep time in the morning. Toast a whole grain English muffin, drizzle with olive oil and top each side with tomato and hard-boiled egg slices, followed by a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. This fun breakfast gives kids the carbohydrates and protein they need to get through the day.

Seven Healthy Lunches Kids (and Moms) will Love

Make sure to extend that healthy eating mindset into lunchtime too. Swap the boring, brown bag blues for these quick, flavorful and healthy lunch ideas. Get out of a lunch rut and send your kids off to school — and you off to work — with meals to keep everyone energized throughout those long school days.

  1. Mini-Veggie Quiches: Spray a muffin pan with olive oil and make this crust-less vegetable quiche recipe, filling each muffin cup about two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until quiches are set and lightly golden on top. Run a knife around the edges to loosen then let cool in the pan. Pack with apple quarters tossed with pineapple juice (to prevent browning) and a couple of pretzel rods.
  2. Colorful Roll-Ups: Spread two tablespoons roasted red pepper hummus on a spinach tortilla. Top with enough oven-roasted turkey slices to cover completely, sliced tomatoes and low-fat American cheese. Take one stalk of celery and place it at one end of the tortilla. Roll tightly, making sure not to squeeze out the filling. Slice in half on a sharp angle and wrap each half in tin foil to help keep sealed. Pack with yogurt and a slice of Angel Food cake or granola bar.
  3. Lettuce Wraps: Wash a few pieces of romaine lettuce and put whatever leftovers you had from dinner onto the greens. This is great for enjoying leftover barbeque chicken, steak and vegetables. Add your child’s favorite vegetable toppings on as well, such as shredded carrots or mushrooms, and you turn one meal into two while making lunch a bit more appealing.
  4. Veggie Fresh: Toasted pita triangles, carrot sticks, grape tomatoes (or other veggies of your choice) served with a side of hummus to dip. Serve it with some trail mix that includes nuts and dried fruit (you can even try making your own).
  5. Grilled Chicken Wrap: Try a wrap made with a whole wheat tortilla, grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, provolone cheese, Kalamata olives and Caesar or ranch dressing (or make one with your favorite ingredients).
  6. Pick-Me-Up: Organic yogurt (any flavor you like), nitrite-free turkey or ham with whole crackers, raisins and cherry tomatoes or veggie snack of your choice.
  7. Pita Pocket: Try a whole wheat pita and fill with chicken salad or turkey meat. Add lettuce, tomato and honey Dijon mustard. Serve with a fresh fruit salad.

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