Quick Breakfasts for Busy Families

Our dietitian offers tips and recipes for great breakfasts on the go.

Medically Reviewed by Cynthia Dennison Haines, MD
From the WebMD Archives

Skipping breakfast is like starting on a long road trip with your fuel gauge almost on empty. You're bound to run out of gas halfway through your busy morning.

Yet as many as 37% of young adults do skip breakfast, according to one survey. Often for the wrong reasons: We're too busy. We're trying to watch our weight. We don't have time to make toast, much less eggs and bacon.

The truth is: breakfast is key to health andweight management. Eating a good breakfast actually helps you eat fewer calories over the course of the day, according to recent studies in the Journal of Nutrition and in Environmental Nutrition. The right breakfast foods -- those high in fiber and protein -- keep your energy up throughout the morning and stave off hunger for hours. The wrong foods -- sugary refined cereals and white breads -- may make you eat more for lunch than normal.

Plus, breakfast serves up a good dose of key nutrients you and your children need: Calcium and potassium from milk; vitamin C, folate, and fiber from oranges or orange juice; and, fiber, folate, and iron from whole grains and fruits.

So do yourself and your children a favor. No matter how hectic your mornings, take just five minutes for a fast breakfast. To help you get started, here are my golden rules for busy breakfasts. Below the golden rules you'll find three fun recipes your family will enjoy.

5 Golden Rules for Busy Breakfasts

1. Go for 5 Grams of Fiber (or More)

Children eating the typical American diet are simply not getting enough fiber. At age 5, children should get at least 10 grams of fiber each day. By age 10, they should get 15 grams, and teenagers should get 20 grams. After age 20, you should get 25 to 35 grams a day. Choose whole grains and fruits with your breakfast to get fiber -- two slices of whole wheat bread provide 6 grams of fiber; 1 cup of fresh berries or 1 cup of raisin bran provides 5 grams or more.

2. Try Breakfast-Friendly Fruits

Fruits not only provide fiber but also important vitamins and minerals. Try one of these as you're rushing out the door.

4 prunes = 3.1 grams fiber
1 cup orange segments = 3.4 grams fiber
1 cup applesauce, unsweetened = 3 grams fiber
1 cup sliced peaches = 3.1 grams fiber
1 cup banana slices = 3.1 grams fiber
1 large apple = 4.2 grams fiber
1 pear = 4 grams fiber
1 cup berries = 5 grams fiber
1 1/4 cups sliced strawberries = 3.1 grams fiber

3. Aim for 5 Grams of Protein

Protein helps fill you up and staves off hunger longer. You can find protein in plenty of fast-breakfast products: Cereals, breakfast bars, and instant shakes. Just check the label to make sure it contains enough protein and not too much sugar. You can easily add 5 grams of protein to your homemade breakfast. Just add 1/4 cup of pasteurized egg substitute to the blender when you make a smoothie. Or pour 1/2 cup of low-fat milk into your cereal. Use whole milk in cereal for children under age 2.

4. Avoid High-Sugar and High-Fat Choices

From toaster pastries to frozen entrees, many breakfast products marketed to busy parents are loaded with sugar or fat -- and sometimes both! Check the food labels carefully before you buy. Look at the grams of fat and grams of sugar per serving. If it's loaded with sugar and fat, it's not really breakfast. It's junk food. You can do better.

Even super-moms buy convenient breakfast products for their families sometimes. Often it's the only way to juggle the morning. So find products you like, keeping these four goals in mind: high fiber, a little protein, low sugar, and low fat. Then buy a boxful and keep them handy at home and at work for those extra busy mornings.

5. Microwave It

On leisurely weekend mornings, have fun making some whole-wheat waffles, blueberry pancakes, muffins, or French toast. Freeze them in plastic bags. Then just pop a serving into the microwave on weekday mornings.

3 Delicious Breakfasts for Busy Families

Deluxe Microwave Oatmeal
(1 serving)

1 packet instant microwave oatmeal (vanilla or maple flavors work well)
1/3 cup finely chopped fruit (peaches, strawberries, apples, etc.) or 2 tablespoons dried fruit (raisins, dried cherries)
1 tablespoon of chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 cup soy milk or low-fat milk *

1. In a microwave-safe soup bowl, blend all ingredients together with spoon.
2. Microwave on HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes; stir well.
3. Microwave another minute or until oatmeal is cooked as desired.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
(Using chopped fresh fruit): 257 calories, 9 g protein, 49 g carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 1 g monounsaturated fat, 1.1 g monounsaturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 340 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 12%.

*Note: Whole milk is recommended for children under age 2.

Breakfast Berry Smoothie
(2 servings)

Berries are bursting with nutrients and phytochemicals. This recipe blends three different berries. Triple the pleasure and triple the nutrition!

3/4 cup sliced strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries (fresh can be used)
3/4 cup frozen raspberries, boysenberries, or blackberries (fresh can be used)
1 1/2 cup nonfat frozen vanilla yogurt or light vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup low-fat milk or soy milk (vanilla or plain)
1/4 cup pasteurized egg substitute *

1. Add all the ingredients to a blender or large food processor. Pulse or blend until combined.
2. Pour into 2 tall glasses and enjoy!

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
239 calories, 10 g protein, 40 g carbohydrate, 5.5 g fat, 3.1 g saturated fat, 1.5 g monounsaturated fat, 0.6 g polyunsaturated fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 166 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%.

*Note: Pasteurization removes almost all of the risk of raw eggs. Still, pregnant women, people with immune diseases, and very young children may want to delete the egg substitute from this recipe.

Designer Mini Muffins
(36 mini muffins -- 9 servings)

This is a basic muffin recipe. Have fun designing your own muffin by stirring in a cup of any fresh or frozen fruit you want. Or try 1/2 cup of chocolate chips or dried fruit (chopped dates or raisins).

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar (you can add 1/8 cup more sugar if you like your muffins on the sweet side)
1 large egg (higher omega-3 egg if available)
1 cup low-fat milk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen fruit pieces (such as blueberries or raspberries) or 1/2 cup of chocolate chips or dried fruit like raisins.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a nonstick mini muffin pan with canola cooking spray or mini muffin paper liners.
2. Add flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar to a large mixing bowl and beat on LOW to blend well. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
3. Add egg to 4-cup measure and beat egg with a whisk or fork. Whisk in milk, oil, corn syrup, and vanilla extract. Add the mixture all at once to the flour mixture in the mixing bowl. Mix quickly on low speed just until moistened (do not overbeat). Scrape sides of the bowl and stir muffin batter briefly.
4. Stir in your designer food ingredients and/or fruit. Add a tablespoon of batter to each mini muffin cup. Bake about 12 minutes or until mini muffins are cooked throughout.

Nutritional Information Per Serving (4 muffins):
217 calories, 5 g protein, 37 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 3.1 g monounsaturated fat, 1.7 g polyunsaturated fat), 25 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 300 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 25%.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Reger, C. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, September 1997; supplement vol 97(9). James O. Hill, PhD, director, Center for Human Nutrition, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver. Williams, C. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, October 1995; vol 95(10).

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