Friday, August 19, 2011

Breakfast Ideas for Kids

A+ Breakfasts for School Day Mornings

By The Circle of Moms Editors - Mar 24, 2011 
No more racing out the door with a Pop-Tart — or, worse, nothing! A well-balanced breakfast provides seriously positive benefits for school-age children, from increased energy to improved concentration. Of course, it’s not easy to mastermind an elaborate nutritious meal on a groggy Tuesday morning, so we’re simplifying your AM meal planning with fast, healthy breakfast ideas that other Circle of Moms members swear by.
1. Fruit Smoothies
Combining fresh or frozen fruit with yogurt or milk in the blender yields a quick breakfast that delivers both solid nutrition and deliciously sweet flavor. As Shellie D. shares: “I usually will give my daughter a smoothie shake with fruit, milk etc.... She loves them. Two seconds in the magic bullet!” She adds “It's so quick and easy!! I usually have one for myself so I just make a little extra for her.” And as Cynthia S. shares, fruit smoothies can easily be made in large batches and saved for another breakfast: “The other thing about smoothies that’s great is if you make extra you can pour the rest into an ice pop mold and then the kids think they're getting an awesome treat for breakfast! I usually use fat-free French vanilla (all natural) yogurt and frozen strawberries.” 
2. Breakfast Sandwiches
If your kids prefer eating en-route to school, a healthy breakfast sandwich is a winning strategy. Christy W. shares: “I'll cook up some turkey sausage patties over the weekend (enough for the following week) then all I have to do is pop them in the microwave for a few seconds while I am toasting whole wheat English muffins and fixing a couple of eggs. Then just make a breakfast sandwich out of it. This so far is one of their favorites and I feel good about it too. Not only does it give them a great start to their day but it’s healthy too!”
3. Yogurt Parfaits
Granola and yogurt with berries,” is the top pick of Samantha S., and she's not alone. Numerous moms suggested this winning combination, which can be easily adjusted with different fruits, yogurt flavors, nuts, and grains to stay interesting. D’Janis R. suggests “Greek yogurt with a couple of spoons of oatmeal or granola cereal, walnuts, and honey drizzled on top,” while Nancy K. recommends “half vanilla yogurt, half lemon yogurt, lots of mixed fresh fruit, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, peaches, etc...then top with granola cereal!”
4. Whole Grain or Veggie Pancakes
Pancakes are quick? You bet! As Candy D. shares, advance prep turns pancakes into a one-minute meal on weekday mornings: “You can make them up early and freeze them. Pop in the microwave for 45 seconds and you have a hot healthy breakfast.” To round out the meal, toss a handfull of fresh fruit (think blueberries, raspberries, and bananas) on top, and go easy on the syrup.
Whole wheat isn’t the only healthy pancake variety recommended by moms. Kathleen H. suggests: “For older kids you can make some veggie pancakes (google it) that taste fabulous! I make three different kinds: beet, carrot and butternut squash, and sweet potato. I make large batches of these and freeze them so they’re on hand.”
5. Peanut Butter and Banana on Toast
Misty P. is one of many moms who recommend this nutrituous combination of protein, fruit and whole grains: “We do our favorite peanut butter with sliced bananas on whole wheat toast with milk. The kids love it.” Melissa L. does a similar combo: “I toast a Nutri-Grain waffle, slice it in half and put peanut butter on it. I put the sides together as a sandwich. That and a banana. VERY easy, and healthy too.”
6. Oatmeal or Whole Grain Cereal with Fruit
Although many cereals are loaded with sugar, whole-grain cereals served with fruit and milk are a healthy, quick standby. Beth O. shares: “I give my son multi-grain Cheerios and a fruit (usually kiwi, bananas, clementines, strawberries, blueberries) for breakfast.” Oatmeal is easy and very nourishing (not to mention affordable) Try sprinkling with cinnamon and adding berries, sliced banana or almonds.
7. Scrambles and Omelettes
"Eggs are a great breakfast, lots of protein," share Eva E. While stove cooking may sound ambitious for a rushed morning, with pre-cut veggies (dice them all on Sunday) and pre-shredded cheese in the fridge, cooking should take all of five minutes.
8. Breakfast Burritos
As Heather A. suggests, wrap your scramble in a whole-wheat tortilla for another meal your child can eat on the go: “Scramble eggs, add cheese and onion, mushroom, meat, etc. and put it in a tortilla for a breakfast burrito.”
9. Quiche
My son loves quiche!" Katie S. shares. "Veggies, protein, a little whole grain. It's fantastic.” A healthy quiche (check quiche recipes from Circle of Moms members for ideas) for can be made on Sunday and microwaved by the slice on school mornings.
10. Forget Traditional Breakfast Foods
Got healthy leftovers from last night’s dinner? You don’t have to stick to meals you might see on a restaurant’s breakfast menu. Shares Karen V.: “One thing I learned with all of mine was if they really like something that’s healthy for them even if it’s not traditional ‘breakfast’ food, give it to them! No rule says you can’t give them tuna fish sandwiches in the morning if it’s what they want to eat!"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Back to School Lunch Ideas

Ready to retire the PB & J sandwich, but stumped by what else to put into your kid’s lunchbox? Try these easy school lunchbox ideas shared by Circle of Moms members – they’re all healthy, simple to make, and will appeal to your kids.

1. Meat and Veggie Wraps & Rolls-Ups

Wraps and roll-ups are recommended by many Circle of Moms members as an easy and enticing alternative to sandwiches. Monique S.'s son likes wraps with sliced turkey, tuna, roast beef, or leftover chicken or steak, while Jacolyn L. suggests veggie wraps: “Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on a wheat tortilla. Layer carrot sticks, slice grape tomatos, fresh spinach and anything else they like.”

2. Hummus,  Pita, & Veggies

"My daughter's number one favorite school snack is hummus and pita bread," Carly C. relays, and Hilary S. agrees: "Pita pocket sandwiches are always a hit (hummus with veggies is always good)." If you're going the dipping route, easy veggie options include strips of bell pepper, baby carrots, grape tomatoes and cucumber rounds.

3. Homemade "Lunchables"

An assortment of whole-grain crackers, low-fat cheeses and low-sodium cold-cuts can offer kids all the fun of building their own meals at school, without sacrificing nutrition. As Amalea S. shares: "With the high sodium and fat in most Lunchable-type foods, I make my own kinds of Lunchables, with cubes of cheese, ham, turkey pepperoni, and different fruits.” Melinda W. takes a similar tactic: “I make homemade 'lunchables' with cut up lunchmeat, cheese and crackers. My kiddos like 'making' their own mini sandwiches.”

4. Peanut Butter & Banana “Sushi” Rolls

Don't be scared by the name this fun lunchbox option is easy! Asya K. explains: "I got this recipe from a Rachel Ray show and my daughter loves it. Take a large piece of whole grain bread and roll it as flat as you can, then spread peanut butter on it, place a whole peeled banana lengthwise across the bread and roll it up and cut like sushi."

5. Frozen Go-gurt

My 7-year-old loves getting a frozen Go-gurt in his lunchbox,” Amanda G. shares, and many Circle of Moms members agree. Simply freeze a box of Go-gurts, toss one in your kid's lunchbox in the morning, and it'll be perfectly thawed by lunchtime!

6. All Kinds of Fruit

Apples are easy, but so are many other fruits! Shaista K. suggests strawberries, diced mango, cantaloupe or pineapple sticks, while Melissa C. recommends raisins, grapes, mandarin oranges, and cherries.

7. Quesadillas

"Try quesadillas!" suggests Jana S. "[Take] some leftover chicken bits, cheddar cheese and salsa, and put in between two tortillas. You can microwave it or put it on a frying pan. My [kids] love it!" Mary G. offers a similar recipe: "Tortilla, folded in half with cheese, grilled, and cut into little sections like a pizza, with a little mild salsa and lite sour cream for dipping." To amp up the healthy factor, opt for whole-wheat tortillas and low-fat or part-skim cheeses.

8. Pasta with Vegetables

Have leftover pasta from last night's dinner? Why not toss it in some tupperware for your kid's lunch? Heather W. suggests "bow-tie pasta with shredded veggies (broccoli, red peppers, zucchini, celery, carrots)" while
Shaye R. recommends “child-size ravioli with steamed peas or other veggies and sprinkled with parmsean cheese or a little honey mustard salad dressing" as well as "pasta or rice with steamed veggies and organic sausage links, cut up.”

9. Edamame

High in protein, fun to eat, and requiring zero prep work, edamame (soy beans) are a great item for school lunches. Karey M. shares: "My 5-year-old loves edamame (soy beans)...Not your usual kid fare, I know." Look for them in the frozen foods aisle.

10. Hard-Boiled Eggs

"[My kids] really like to have boiled eggs in their lunches," shares Kelly D., one of several Circle of Moms members who recommended this as a protein-packed lunch item. To maximize convenience, boil eggs for several days' lunches at once. It's best to pack them with something cold in the lunchbox  perhaps #5 on this list!