This week, a friend emailed to ask what I feed my kids for breakfast. She hinted that she was getting tired of feeding her kids cereal and yogurt, mainly from a nutritional standpoint. So, like any enterprising mom, she emailed a few friends for ideas. And, of course, it got me thinking about what I actually do feed my kids and, with that, came equal parts pride and guilt. But that’s parenthood for you…equal parts pride and guilt.
In the morning, while we are feeding our boys, we are also packing two lunches, feeding two cats, and making two smoothies (we are finally able to subsist without coffee). Time is of the essence and agreeable is the name of the game. Since that 60-minute crunch to get out the door each morning is rife with its own battles, we don’t need to be proprietary about our ideas for success. That said, I thought I’d share my reply to my friend so we could get a bigger conversation going on about healthy breakfast ideas. Mainly, so I could ask you…what do you feed (or aspire to feed) your little ones for breakfast?
Let’s get real about a few things first.
1. The instagram inferiority complex. I don’t know about you, but sometimes all that food porn makes me feel like we’re all completely ill-equipped to make and serve food. Truth: Sometimes my kids eat food from boxes. Sometimes it’s presented to them on a plate riddled with chips or stains. Sometimes a silicone muffin cup is the best plate I can find. A lot of times, stuff takes a detour to the floor. Usually the lighting is horrible. Often, there are boogers on the napkin beside the plate. If there even is a napkin.*
2. Feeding kids is hard. While I am a mostly Paleo, whole foods, gluten+grain+refined sugar+soy-free girl, I am no saint when it comes to feeding my kids. They eat their fair share of pizza, pasta, birthday party cupcakes, cereal, gummy bears and more. Their menus are a work in progress. Helping them make choices is hard work. We are constantly introducing new foods and working to phase out those with lesser nutritive values, but damn, the struggle is so real.
3. I feel out of control. I consider it a victory when lunch boxes come home with cucumbers half-eaten, yellow pepper strips nibbled at the ends, lightly salted macadamia nuts missing. But the fact of the matter is, I’m not in the classroom with them at lunch so I can’t make them eat it. (Oh, don’t get me wrong, sometimes I am the woman that completely freaks out at dinner and make my kids eat stuff. Or I bargain with them. Not sure which is worse). On the contrary, I can’t fly into the birthday party and beg them not to eat it.
4. All food is not evil. After ten years of experimenting with diet to improve my health, I have trouble remembering this. I’m no stranger to the growing debate about food convictions, morals, intuition etc. I also
have a sneaking suspicion can see that my view of diet is skewed and the foods I think are evil are a huge step up from the average household. As for kid groceries, we alternate between gluten-free breads and cereals and gluten-forward, whole wheat, Oprah-said-it-was-ok bread. Sometimes we do grass-fed cow’s milk and, other times, I find myself pushing almond milk. Sometimes I let them have chips and guacamole, other times I freak out that I would even dare feed them corn. I literally can’t make up my mind on how I want them to eat. (Remember the recipe: equal parts pride and guilt.)
What I can say is this, as we try new things, I’m vigilantly watching. From their skin, to their upper respiratory health to their GI habits, I am always looking. I grew up with (and still deal with) so many issues across all of those realms that I would not wish them upon anyone. I am fortunate to report that, so far, these are two kids who are thriving. We’ll see a dry, seasonal cough with a runny nose or a bout of norovirus every few years but these are not kids who miss school for illness. I do notice tiny bumps and eczema if we’re overdoing it with simple carbs, sugar and gluten. And I do notice it settle when we stick to a more whole foods diet. But, overall, they are healthy kids thus far. Above all, that’s the outcome I’m looking for.
All that said, here is what I wrote to my friend about breakfast:
First of all, my kids totally eat yogurt. Let’s just get that out of the way. I generally try to buy the Seven Stars maple yogurt if we can. My youngest also likes kefir which he calls smoothies. Once in a while, I make yogurt in the crockpot and they’ll eat it with honey or maple syrup mixed in. I try to offer berries with the yogurt, if they are in season.
Next, my kids are allowed to have a little cereal (usually Honey Nut Cheerios). Or a frozen buckwheat waffle with a maple syrup drizzle or (insert other carb) but there is a catch: they know that they also have to have protein. For that, we do scrambled eggs or Applegate maple sausage links. Like most days. It only takes five minutes to make them a hot breakfast and, to be honest, we’re both a bit more satisfied.
They also will eat hard-boiled eggs (but the willingness on this comes and goes. Mine too, actually.) I often serve those with ham cubes from a turkey ham.
They also like toast with Justin’s vanilla or chocolate almond butter on it. Which in terms of sugars is actually not bad. I think it’s 7g — still 1/3 sugar of yogurt but, bonus – it, too, has protein. Again, if they choose this, they also get eggs or meat.
The other thing I do when time allows is make Paleo baked goods at the start of the week which I feel good about because they’re mostly nut flour and eggs and usually the sweetener is minimal. Their favorites are pumpkin muffins or banana bread. I have learned that I can actually back way off on the sweetener and they don’t even notice or care. They also like paleo breakfast cookies.
Finally, on weekends, I often try smoothies with them. Try as I might, they don’t like our green smoothie so I have to make “kids” smoothies. I’m still working on sneaking in some hidden veggies though they are partial to bananas and milk. They like this one from The Kitchn and this one from Against All Grain.
It’s that “when time allows” thing that kills me. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time. How am I supposed to be making muffins on top of everything else?
Ok, I put it all out there. Can we get onto the self-serving reason I bothered to write this? Tell me what breakfast foods you feed the children in your life! Any hacks I should know about? For instance: That same friend just texted me this morning to say she has had success with kale smoothies because she uses frozen blueberries to mask the kale with color and taste. Smart lady.
*If you are looking for some beautiful, whole foods breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) inspo that is legit kid-approved, check out my insta-friend @kickncrohns. This mom of three is on a major mission to help her son triumph over Crohn’s through a healthy lifestyle. It’s one instagram account that, even though it is intimidatingly beautiful, completely fills me with hope and motivation every day.