With exam week right around the corner, please enjoy this repost from a long-time Clapham parent!
Kid-favorite breakfasts can unfortunately be heavy on simple carbohydrates, setting up our kids for a mid-morning crash. While possibly passable on a typical weekday morning, these breakfasts can easily be upgraded and supercharged to give our kids exam-week focus and energy.
One of the most important guiding principles for super-charging a breakfast to give maximum sustained energy and mental focus is to think broadly about macro-nutrient balance, ie., balancing protein, fats, carbohydrates. While worrying about exact ratios is generally not helpful or necessary for most healthy kids, parents can achieve positive benefits by trading out some simple carbs and adding in some healthy protein, fats, and more complex or ‘slower’ carbs.
With that in mind, here are five ideas to get you started on super charging your kids’ exam week breakfasts!
Maybe the king of all breakfasts for kids when it comes to easy, fun, flexible, and nutritious. They can easily be adapted for allergies and preferences, and many healthy ingredients can be added that kids might not accept when offered alone. Some of my favorite ways to supercharge a smoothie include:
- Berries: Low glycemic fruit that pack in a lot of fiber and antioxidants. We usually stick to berries as the fruit base and then sweeten to taste with tropical fruits. Mango is a great choice for kids who aren’t fans of banana, and it packs in some extra Vitamin A!
- Ground Flax Seed: Packed with fiber to help slow the absorption of carbohydrate-rich fruits in a smoothie, not to mention keeping kids’ digestive systems moving along! Also packed with omega 3s and heart-healthy lignans. Start with a small sprinkle!
- Mild Greens: Spinach and mild micro-greens easily melt into fruity yumminess and are generally well accepted in a smoothie! Or for a ‘fresh’ flavor, try parsley or even cilantro, along with a squeeze of lemon juice!
- Coconut Oil: This natural oil has numerous potential benefits, including a slow- burning source of energy that will last all morning! A little goes a long way!
- Flax Seed Oil: This heart-healthy oil is another easy way to pack in some healthy fat- based fuel, while also providing the benefits of lignans and omega 3s.
- Coconut Milk: For a dairy alternative, this ‘milk’ packs more fats than some of the other nut or grain-based options, sustaining kids with energy throughout the morning.
- Nut Butters: A yummy way to add protein, fats, and fiber! Look for options with few or no added ingredients, especially hydrogenated fats or sugar.
- Yogurt: A natural source of fats and protein. Choose grass-fed dairy and enjoy significantly higher levels of beneficial fatty acids and lower levels of inflammatory omega-6.
- Protein Powders: The options are endless and are an easy way to boost the protein content in a smoothie that might otherwise be pretty carbohydrate-rich. Plain collagen powder is a go-to in our family, but whey protein is another popular option, and there are plenty of vegan choices as well.
Trade in the instant oatmeal for steel cut oats, which are the least processed form of oats and boast a lower glycemic index than instant oats, meaning it won’t spike the blood sugar as much.
Steel cut oats take awhile to cook, but most of it is hands-off time and is easily prepared on the stove or in a slow cooker. Plan ahead and cook in bulk Sunday night, and rewarm each morning for a quick breakfast!
Boost the protein and fat in your kids’ oatmeal breakfast by adding a sprinkle of nuts and a little coconut oil or grass-fed butter or cream. Go easy on added sweeteners, and keep in mind even dried fruits can add a lot of sugar. Fresh fruit like berries, apple pieces, or a little banana are the best choice for keeping blood sugars steady. Experiment with adding cinnamon or other spices for a decadent treat and added health benefits.
Skip the fluffy white Wonder Bread and maybe even the ‘whole wheat’ bread too. Many whole wheat breads do not have enough fiber to actually slow the digestion of quick carbohydrates, and the bran in whole wheat contains phytic acid, an ‘antinutrient’ preventing the body from absorbing the added nutrition we count on in whole grains.
Instead, try a sprouted bread for morning toast! Sprouted bread is bread made from grains that have begun to sprout, or germinate. This lowers the carbs, increases the amino acids (ie., protein), increases digestibility, and neutralizes the phytic acid, which means more nutrients are absorbed. Sprouted bread comes in many varieties, including kid-favorite cinnamon raisin, and tastes delicious with grass-fed butter, nut butters, mashed avocado with salt and a squeeze of lime, or even an egg, prepared in any favorite way!
This kid-favorite breakfast can easily be tweaked to up the protein and healthy fats while minimizing simple carbs. Perhaps the easiest upgrade is to double the egg in the recipe! Other things to try include switching out some portion of the wheat flour for almond flour, adding a sprinkle of a flavorless protein powder such as plain whey or collagen, adding in some ground flax seed, and trading out other oils for either omega-3-rich olive oil or the heart- healthy oleic acid-rich avocado oil. Skip the syrup and add fresh or frozen blueberries to the batter, and top with a small pat of grass-fed butter!
Okay, so there isn’t too much to upgrade here, since eggs are already a perfect powerhouse of nutrition just as they come, but any list of powerhouse breakfasts just wouldn’t be complete without proper stand-alone mention of them! Just one egg provides 7 grams of high-quality protein and 5 grams of fat, as well as iron, vitamins, minerals, and many other powerful disease-fighting nutrients. Free range eggs are the best choice, with potentially just a third of the cholesterol of eggs from factory-raised chickens, while doubling omega-3 fatty acids and providing significantly higher amounts of vitamins A, D, and E. Experiment with the many different ways to fix eggs to find a few favorites for your family, or try making breakfast egg muffins for a quick on-the-go exam-week option!