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Fuel for Back to School

A bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh fruit.

Written by Rachel under the direction and review of Megan Jacobsen and Megan Erickson.

With children returning to school, it is vital that they start the day off with a nutrient-dense meal to promote proper growth and health. Breakfast can help children maintain a healthy weight as well increase their cognitive development. Not only do children who eat breakfast stay satisfied and full throughout the morning, but they perform better academically as well. A 2019 study that students who frequently ate breakfast scored higher in the area of academic performance than students who skipped breakfast.

What makes a power-packed breakfast that helps students focus and stay full? Let’s break down breakfast into the macronutrients that will support their growth and cognitive development.

Essential Macronutrients

Protein

This will be the most important part of making sure that children develop at a normal rate and stay full throughout the day, leading to better focus and less distractions. Here are some foods that can help you incorporate protein into a healthy breakfast.

  • Hardboiled or scrambled eggs
  • Milk
  • Cottage cheese - Easy to make savory or sweet!
  • Cheese
  • Whole nuts (look for raw with no added salt or sugar)
  • Almond butter (look for brands with only 1 ingredient: almonds!)

Carbohydrates (Carbs)

When incorporating carbs into breakfast, it is beneficial to use complex carbs, such as whole grains. Whole grains contain important vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, magnesium, and iron. Complex carbs have fiber that helps to slow down the metabolism of starches and sugar which will provide a longer stream of energy to boost students through the morning. Here are some examples of flavorful carbs to use.

  • Fruit & Veggie Smoothie
  • Sweet Potato
  • Raisins
  • Whole fruit (apple, banana, pear, strawberries)
  • Whole grain bread
  • Oats (easy to make a bowl of oatmeal!)

Fats

Healthy fats are a great addition to a child’s diet and can supplement omega-3 fatty acids which are beneficial for brain health. Here are some foods that contain healthy fats and can make a great addition to a child’s breakfast.

  • Walnuts
  • Tuna
  • Avocados
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Flaxseed

Combining all three macronutrients at breakfast time can really lead to a successful day for a growing student. Children need enough calories and diversity in their diet to properly develop physically and cognitively, so that they can continue to perform well academically and athletically. For more ideas on delicious breakfasts, check out the recipes below, or visit eatright.org.

Breakfast Ideas

Old Fashioned Oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened milk or milk alternative
  • 1/3 cup fruit (fresh or frozen)
  • Optional add-ins: nuts, seeds, cinnamon

Yield: 1 serving

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in sealable container and place in fridge overnight. Eat cold the next day.

    Fruit & Veggie Smoothie

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup vegetables (carrots, spinach, mixed greens, kale, cucumber, zucchini, summer squash, etc)
    • 1 cup water, milk, or milk alternative
    • ½ banana
    • ½ cup fruit (fresh or frozen)

    Yield: 1 (16 oz) serving

    Instructions: Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

    Apples and Cinnamon Cottage Cheese

    Ingredients:

    • ½ cup 2% cottage cheese
    • ½ apple, chopped
    • 1 Tablespoon walnuts, chopped
    • 1 Tablespoon honey
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Yield: 1 serving

    Instructions: Combine all ingredients. Enjoy right away or refrigerate for up to three days.

    Sweet Potato Chips

    Ingredients:

    • 2 medium sweet potatoes
    • Extra Virgin Olive or Avocado oil
    • Salt, to taste

    Yield: 4 servings

    Instructions:

    1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Clean your sweet potatoes, no need to peel them. Slice your sweet potatoes thinly.
    2. Put a cookie wire rack on top of a cookie sheet. This allows you to not have to turn the chips over halfway through the cooking process. If you don’t have a cookie wire rack, brush your cookie sheet with avocado oil. Arrange sweet potatoes on a wire rack or cookie sheet. Brush sweet potatoes with avocado oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    3. Put in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. If you don’t have a wire rack, turn the chips over halfway through the cooking time. Remove from oven and allow time to cool and harden.

    Avocado Toast with Eggs

    Ingredients:

    • 2 slices whole grain toast
    • ½ avocado
    • 2 eggs, hardboiled
    • Salt and pepper, to taste

    Yield: 1 serving

    Instructions:

    1. Toast 2 slices of whole grain toast.
    2. Slice ½ avocado into thin slices and spread on top of toast.
    3. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top of the avocado toast to taste.
    4. Top the avocado toast with slices of hardboiled egg or enjoy the eggs on the side.