The Breakfast Conundrum

By Casey Seidenberg

Back-to-school hovers around the corner, which means parents must begin to contemplate carpools, homework and how to keep hectic mornings moving smoothly. Since we shouldn’t send our kids off to school without a healthful meal, we should start contemplating breakfast too. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2/3 of teen girls and ½ teen boys don’t eat breakfast even though it has proven to be essential to their focus and energy levels in school. Let’s move our kids, no matter what age, into the habit of beginning their days healthfully.

There are three key nutrients that make up a wholesome breakfast.

Protein: - Provides concentrated energy for body - Constructs the brain - Repairs tissue - Keeps body satisfied longer

Healthful Fat: - Supplies energy - Builds the brain - Slows absorption of other parts of the meal, keeping body satisfied longer

Fiber: - Reduces risk of heart disease - Lowers cholesterol - Keeps body full longer

Serve any of these items with a side of fruit for a healthful breakfast.

Eggs • Hard boiled (great when on-the-go) • Scrambled (add veggies) • Egg Nest: whole grain toast with an egg fried in a hole in the middle (kids love!) • Breakfast burrito: scrambled eggs & cheese in a whole grain wrap • Frittata (make in advance and heat up a slice, or make as muffins so easy to heat, grab and go) • For the little kids: green eggs & ham. Chop a handful of spinach into tiny pieces and toss with eggs before scrambling. Serve with a side of nitrate-free bacon or ham.

Smoothie • Start with a frozen banana • Add any combination of fresh or frozen fruit (berries, pineapple, mango, cherries) • For added nutrition: throw in a handful of greens (spinach, kale, romaine) • For protein: 1 T nut butter, a handful of raw cashews or sunflower seeds, or ½ c plain yogurt • For a creamier flavor: ½ c almond milk or coconut milk • Add water if needed until smoothie blends liquid

Nuts & Seeds • Low-sugar granolaGranola wedges (slices are great for on-the-go) • Banana spread with nut butter • Breakfast quesadilla: whole grain tortilla spread with nut butter and sliced berries • Almond pancakes or waffles (make a big batch over the weekend and reheat in toaster)

Whole GrainsPre-soaked oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice or millet topped with honey or maple syrup and fruit. Soak whole grain in fridge overnight and then just heat up! • Whole grain muffins (make on Sunday for the week) • Oatmeal pancakes (make a big batch over the weekend and reheat in toaster during the week)

Dairy • Yogurt Parfait with fruit and nuts or granola

Other Ideas • Sweet potato pancakes • Smoked salmon and mascarpone or cream cheese on sliced bread • A piece of whole grain toast with a sliced avocado sprinkled with salt & pepper • Scrambled tofu • Nitrate-free turkey or chicken sausage

PACKAGED BREAKFASTS: What to Consider

If a packaged breakfast is the only option, here are some things to consider, and a list of the most healthful options.

Frozen waffles

1. “Whole” grain flour should be the first ingredient after water

2. No trans fats / partially hydrogenated oil

3. Low in sugar (less than 5 grams per serving)

4. Low in sodium (less than 360mg per serving)

5. 3 or more grams of fiber

6. Free of artificial dyes (often used for golden coloring)

7. Think about the toppings you use. Try fresh fruit, nuts, grade B pure maple syrup.

Best:

• Vans 8 Wholegrain

• Kashi 7 Grain

• Natures Path Ancient Grain

• 365 Multigrain

Boxed cereals According to a recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, 47 brand name boxed cereals have more sugar than a Twinkie or three Chips Ahoy! cookies, including the seemingly wholesome General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios, Wheaties Fuel, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisps. Twinkie’s for breakfast? No way!

1. “Whole” grain should be the first ingredient

2. No trans fats / partially hydrogenated oil

3. Low in sugar – at maximum 8 grams per serving, ideally less than 5

4. 3 or more grams of fiber

5. Low sodium

Best:

• Purely Elizabeth

• Nature’s Path Organics

• Dorset

• Kind

• Udi’s

• Go Raw

• Back to Nature

Best: According to the EWG, the following brands offer the most healthful cereals:

• Ambrosial

• Go Raw

• Grandy Oats

• Kaia Foods

• Laughing Giraffe

• Lydia’s Organics

• Nature’s Path Organics

And the following big-brand cereals rate the highest for nutrition:

• Post Shredded Wheat

• Post Grape-Nuts Flakes

• Post Bran Flakes

• Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats

Cereals that are made with whole grains in their original form such as oats, millet, museli or low-sugar granola are the most healthful. There is controversy about the extrusion process that manipulates grains into shapes and puffs to make cereal. Some studies have shown that the high-heat process inactivates raw food enzymes, denatures proteins, and simplifies starches, too many of which can contribute to diabetes. So the best bet is to stick with the whole grain itself!

Granola Bars Like boxed cereal, many granola bars have as much sugar and chemical ingredients as a packaged dessert so pay attention to the sugar content and ingredient list.

1. Ingredients should be all or mostly whole foods such as raw seeds, nuts and dried fruit

2. A “whole” grain, nut or seed should be the first ingredient

3. No trans fats / partially hydrogenated oil

4. Less than 10g sugar – sugar should not be in the first three ingredients

5. 3 or more grams of fiber

6. Low sodium

Best Brands:

1. Kind

2. Lara (some varieties are higher in sugar but are made from all whole foods)

3. ProBar

4. 18 Rabbits

5. Kashi (some of the flavors are lower in sugar than others and have fewer ingredients - look for these)

First Published in the Washington Post on Thursday, August 8, 2013.