Healthy breakfast choices for kids

by Julie Snyder

Healthy KidsAccording to the American Dietetic Association, kids who eat a healthy breakfast concentrate better, have better problem-solving skills and miss fewer days of school.

Kids are more alert, creative and physically active after eating breakfast. Why does providing a healthier start to your child's day such a struggle? For most familes, it boils down to time.

What makes a healthy breakfast?

Head to any grocery store and you'll be met by breakfast offerings promising to be quick, filling and appealing! Many products present themselves as "nutritious." On closer inspection, you reveal high amounts of sugar and empty calories.

Most of these foods leave your child running low on "fuel" an hour or so later. What's a parent to do? At the core of a healthy breakfast you'll find:

Whole grains: Whole-grain rolls, bagels or bread, low-sugar cereals, low-fat bran muffins or crackers

Low-fat protein: Peanut butter, lean meat, poultry, fish, or eggs

Low-fat dairy: Skim milk, low-fat yogurt and cheeses

Fruits and vegetables: Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, 100 percent juice

This combination of foods pack a long-lasting nutritional punch. Choose one or two options from each category to begin your day.

Best breakfasts for kids

Your kid's busy and can't stop for a meal. These ideas will entice your kids to sit down and say, "Yum!"

Breakfast for babies

Kids this age tend to touch, taste, pat, poke and drop food. Cut into finger-food sized pieces or serve as fork practice:

Happy faces: Whole grain waffles or pancakes made with egg yolks and topped with a puréed fruit face. Cut into small pieces.

Good morning sunshine! Scrambled egg yolks and herbs. Serve with a soft fruit salad of your baby's favorites.

Toddlers and preschoolers

Some kids greet you with "I'm hungry." Others take a while to work up an appetite.

Over the rainbow: Alternate layers of cottage cheese or yogurt with your toddler's favorite fruits. Top with a sprinkle of granola.

Creativity counts! Serve up a batch of whole grain pancakes in different shapes. Pour the batter into a squeeze bottle and draw a face or the letters of your child's name.

School-aged kids

School mornings rush by. One of these quick, healthy breakfast choices will help your kids stay alert throughout the day:

Bulls-eye eggs: Cut the center from a piece of whole grain bread with a cookie cutter or free-hand. Spray or oil a pan. Drop the bread in, crack an egg into the hole and then cook as usual.

Breakfast roll up: Start with a whole-grain tortilla. Add a slice of low-fat lunch meat, cottage or cream cheese and tomato slices. Roll and cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces. Serve with "fancy" fruit like orange and strawberry flowers.

Banana dogs: Peel a banana and place it in a whole-grain bun. Garnish with peanut butter and raisins. Serve with a glass of cold milk

Pizza bagels: Turn on the broiler. Halve whole-grain bagels and cover each half with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and toppings. Pop in the oven 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with sliced fruit.

Does your child have a favorite food to start off the day? Share your breakfast tips and your child's age!

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.