By Charity Curley Mathews
It's hard to think beyond cornflakes when you've only had two hours of sleep. With three small children all under the age of four, I've tried every morning routine. Every breakfast is like a human game of Tetris, with children constantly moving, crawling and shifting positions. And I have yet to find the part in this game where I get to eat breakfast.
Eighty-three percent of parents polled by Highlights magazine said they "always" feed their kids breakfast, yet only 19 percent said the same about themselves. That's because life in the early hours of the day is tiring and hectic, full of crabby little people.
Research shows that protein-rich breakfasts reduce unhealthy snacking later in the day. So, to keep you out of the leftovers in your kids' lunch boxes, here are seven different breakfasts even the busiest of moms can make ahead or eat on-the-go.
Instant oatmeal packets might be quick to cook, but they're often loaded with added sugars. Whole or steel-cut oats (loaded with fiber and antioxidants) are much healthier, but take much longer to make... unless you cook them in your sleep. "[My] household's favorite make-ahead breakfast is steel-cut oats in a rice cooker, which is programmed to have them ready when you wake up," says Drew Ramsey, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia and author of 50 Shades of Kale. A slow cooker does the trick, too. Or make them cold: Soak oats with milk and diced strawberries or raspberries, and let them sit in the fridge overnight. Make it interesting with crushed almonds, a splash of grass-fed milk and some organic fruit.
Take time to do some advance batch cooking on the weekend and you'll have breakfast ready to go all week, suggests Rachel Beller, MS, RD and author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win. "Freeze individual portions [of oatmeal] and defrost one in the fridge the night before so it's ready to grab and go," she says. "Sprinkle some cinnamon and chia seeds on it, grab an apple on your way out [and] you have your fiber-full breakfast in seconds."
I once delivered a batch of freshly made muffins to a new mom who thanked me and said, "Oh wow, now I'll actually eat breakfast before 11 a.m.!" The beauty of muffins is that you can pack them with good-for-you ingredients -- wheat germ, chia seeds, nuts, applesauce -- and still get a comfort-food breakfast.
Take your favorite muffin recipe, replace 1/4 the flour with wheat germ, add 1/4 cup of chia seeds and 1/4 cup of chopped nuts, reduce the oil or butter by half and swap in applesauce. Bake for about 10 minutes longer than usual. Voila: a muffin makeover that you can eat fresh or freeze and thaw as you like.
Eggs On The Go
There's a reason people have been eating eggs in the morning for centuries. Mild in flavor, they're easy to make and full of stick-with-you protein. Make a batch ahead of time by baking individual eggs in muffin tins, hard-boiling half a dozen or making a quiche to slice and serve all week. "Making quiche at home is much easier than most people think," writes Marina Delio in her book The Yummy Mummy Kitchen.
Toast is as basic as it gets, but you can punch up this classic breakfast food to make a satisfying meal in seconds. Start with sprouted bread or the most fiber-rich whole wheat you can find (check the label to avoid any high-fructose corn syrup or added sugar). Pop it in the toaster and add a slice of smoked salmon for a kick of those all-important omega-3s every busy mom needs.
Start With A Smoothie
It's hard to beat a grab-and-go drink that combines delicious fruit, nutritious veggies and power-packing superfoods all in one. The blender does most of the work, but you can simplify your morning routine even more by gathering your smoothie ingredients, putting them in sealable baggies and freezing the whole pack until you're ready to hit the purée button.
Try the Pistachio Cherry Smoothie and the Rosemary Orange Smoothie from the book Superfood Smoothies.
Coffee With A Kick
If you're a milk drinker, try this tip I learned while living in Italy. Even new moms there drink a morning cappuccino. (The nurses at the hospital served me one after I had our third baby last year.) But the ratio is totally transformed from your usual cup of joe: 75 percent milk, 25 percent coffee (or espresso). Or, try a macchiato, which outside of Starbucks actually means "stained" -- it's 90 percent milk with just a splash of coffee. Milk with a splash of coffee? Yes, please!
Hot Breakfast In A Hurry
Pancakes and waffles may sound both decadent and impossible on a busy morning, but both can be cooked up in advance (at night or during naptime) and frozen until needed. When you're ready, pop either one in the toaster for an instant reheat or roll it around a piece of bacon or sausage and microwave until warm. Try banana-pecan buttermilk pancakes from Relish by Daphne Oz.
Big Fat Greek Yogurt
It's hard to imagine a more popular health food right now, but Greek yogurt gets its good reputation honestly. It's packed with protein and also aids in digestion. Ramsey suggests full-fat Greek yogurt with fruit and a little honey. "Both keep you full, help aid weight loss and taste excellent," he says. Delish!