The other morning, while I was trying to coax breakfast orders out of my groggy six- and nine-year-olds, my husband said, “When I was a kid, unless it was my birthday and I got to pick out a box of cereal, my mother never once asked me what I wanted for breakfast.” Now that I think of it, neither did mine. Of course I want my kids to enjoy their food and therefore — at least theoretically — eat a balanced, healthy breakfast. But do I really have to be a short-order cook at 7 a.m.?
So I decided to just make something, put it in front of them, and see how it goes. So far my experiment — i.e. “it’s smoothies and boiled eggs today” — has gone over really well. In fact, I don’t even think the kids have noticed.
I know breakfast, especially during the school week, can be a pain. But we all know how important it is. I think of breakfast as one of the only meals that I can completely control. I am not naive enough to think (for one minute) that the healthy lunches I’m packing every day are really exactly what my kids eat for lunch every day. For example, recently my son let it slip that he traded his (nitrate-free, organic turkey on whole wheat) sandwich for his buddy’s (GMO-laden, highly processed) Lunchables Ham & American Cracker Stackers. While the food evangelist in me cringes, the mom and former kid in me understands.
What about dinner? Well, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am a big believer in family dinner — for about ten thousand reasons. One of the main reasons is that when we eat together, I can make sure there’s a nice pile of sliced veggies and lean, hormone-free protein on the plate. And we do eat together as often as we can. Which is certainly not every night. This is not because I’ve got a good excuse like a high-powered job or long commute; it’s simply reality. We try, but we’re busy. I do pack healthy on-the-go meals for my kids when they have after-school activities. But the truth remains that breakfast is my best shot at consistently getting real food into my kids’ mouths.
So, now I’m in charge of breakfast, which is less painful than trying to communicate about breakfast choices with a cranky kid (“Sweetie, we have the same kind of yogurt we had yesterday.”) — but also requires me to come up with something to feed them every day. Because I’ve read several studies that say eating protein at breakfast reduces cravings for unhealthy sugars and fats later in the day, I cook a lot of eggs. One egg has about 6 grams of high-quality protein and is a naturally good source of vitamin D, something a lot of us are deficient in. Not all eggs are created equal though. If you can’t get farm-fresh eggs, go for the next best thing, which is organic eggs from truly free-roaming chickens. There is an unbelievable difference in taste as well as health benefits: Pastured eggs have been shown to contain far less cholesterol and saturated fat but more vitamins A and E, omega-3 fatty acids, and beta carotene. My kids like them almost hard-boiled, so I cook them for 9 minutes and serve them in darling little egg cups with chicken feet.
Another big hit has been PB & J’s. My son sits at a nut-free table at school, so this is his only chance to have what I think is close to a perfect meal. The key, of course, to a healthy PB & J is getting the right ingredients. First, you need organic (to ensure you’re not eating GMO wheat) whole wheat bread. We love Rudy’s Honey Sweet Whole Wheat (the Whole Foods version is also good and is less expensive). Peanut butter is a very personal thing, so go with the brand you and your kids love. Of course I recommend going organic and avoiding the brands that add weird oils, sugar, or any unpronounceable ingredients to an item that really should contain one thing: peanuts (okay and maybe a little salt). As for the jelly, in order to keep it healthy, watch the sugar. (My banana jam is fabulous, if I do say so myself, and is actually quite low in sugar.) Otherwise, I buy Crofters Just Fruit Spread, which has 8 grams per tablespoon, compared to Smucker’s Raspberry Jam, which has 12 g. Another great idea is to sub out the jam for chopped and slightly smooshed fresh berries. When they’re good (like right now), this is beyond delicious, and nobody misses the preserves.
Next post will be a couple great smoothie recipes, because those are another staple around here. Hey, What’s your kid’s favorite breakfast?