Latest news, food, business, travel, sport, Tips and Tricks...

A Better Breakfast

Strategies for getting your family to eat the most important meal of the day

by Catherine Newman

A Better Breakfast

The importance of being earnest about breakfast has been drummed into us seemingly since the dawn of civilization ("Finish your mastodon flakes!" cave moms surely nagged). And you don't need to read the recent Harvard study linking eating breakfast to higher math scores, decreased hyperactivity, and less depression to know that it's key. Let your children make a meal from the hole of a doughnut, and they're wired and exhausted before you can say "low blood sugar." To maintain their school-day energy, kids need a balanced, nutritious breakfast -- and they need it pronto. Easier said than done? Maybe not. Here, we offer rush-hour ideas for making breakfast healthy, making it tasty, and making it fast.

No matter how little time you have to prepare it -- or how little time they have to eat it -- you can send your kids off with a deliciously nutritious breakfast.

Smoothie, Gorp and Banana Dog

Plan ahead.  A little preparation during the weekend or evening can ensure that school mornings are as smooth as, well, a smoothie.

Keep fruit washed and ready to eat in the fridge or cut up a giant bowl of fruit salad.

Try our make-ahead smoothie packs or breakfast gorp.

Cook double batches of Sunday pancakes, waffles, or French toast, and keep leftovers toaster-ready in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

Brainstorm a list of ideas -- instant oatmeal, bagel with cream cheese, yogurt and granola, scrambled-egg sandwich, or our fun Banana Dog -- and post it on the fridge for brain-dead "What can I eat?" mornings.

Make it fun.  For breakfast objectors, conscientious or otherwise, the morning meal might require a little extra sparkle. For instance, Sandra Waier of Felton, California, serves her kids toasted wheat bread spread with peanut butter, topped with pancake syrup, and cut up into bite-size pieces. "It's one of my kids' favorite breakfasts," she says. Or try a fun pancake-making technique: my husband, Michael, and I pour batter into a plastic bottle to squeeze out the letters of our children's names.

Slip in something healthy.  Other parents use fun stealth-health techniques to sneak in bonus nutrition. The Moesner family of Springboro, Ohio, kept wheat germ in a shaker jar for their twins (then 3 years old), who enjoyed sprinkling it on their food as if it were the salt and pepper their parents used. Shaunna Privratsky of Fargo, North Dakota, grates apples, undetected, into her kids' pancakes and hot cereal. And Micha Van Cleave of Placerville, California, cools hot cereal with vitamin-rich -- and appealing -- frozen fruit chunks.

Think outside the cereal box.  Who says the breakfast of champions has got to be "breakfast" food? If it's good for them and they want to eat it, let them. Leftovers such as pizza, soup, or quiche offer easy, balanced nutrition, as does a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, quesadilla, or baked potato with a little bit of bacon or cheese. Consider the typical rice and noodle morning dishes of Asia, or the simple bread and cheese meals of Europe, and let your kids breakfast internationally. Or stick closer to home and open the Rise and Shine Sundae Shop: layer fruit, yogurt, and granola into a tall glass and call it a parfait. Your kids may just think it's perfect.