Does your teen skip breakfast or hit the school’s vending machine?
Have them start their day off right with these healthy options.
I know it’s easy to sleepwalk through breakfast, especially for busy moms or teenagers. But c’mon, people. With a little planning — and very little effort — you can have a power-packed breakfast, full of “good brain food” and superfoods.
Natalie Borrell, high school psychologist and founder of Life Success for Teens, says it is important to start the day with a nutritious option for several reasons. “It provides energy, improves your ability to concentrate, has a positive impact on your mood, and encourages lifelong healthy habits,” she says.
She adds that it’s not uncommon to see students with a large frozen Starbucks drink in hand, complete with whipped cream and even a caramel drizzle on top.
“If a student is consuming upwards of 50 grams of sugar in the morning (what you can easily find in a frozen coffee drink), they may have an initial burst of energy, but will find themselves drained of energy and cranky by lunch time,” Borrell says. “I often explain to students that they need to think of their body as a car and the food they put into their body like the gasoline. Your car can’t run without gasoline, and it can’t run well if you put junk into the fuel tank.”
If your teen favors coffee drinks, try this:
Cinnamon Cocoa Overnight Oats
My inspiration here are those “tall mocha, extra whip” type drinks with TONS of sugar and too much caffeine. This recipe will fuel you just the same, and scratches that itch without all the unnecessary sugar.
SUPER FOOD: almonds
1/2 C rolled oats
1 C almond milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 T cocoa mix
1 T chopped almonds.
Combine all ingredients in a mason jar, stir. Refrigerate overnight.
Looking for something “on the go” in place of Pop Tarts? Try these:
These are portable and popable, perfectfor the bus ride to school or the carpool. Don’t make them too big, or they’ll melt in your hands. For an afternoon snack instead of breakfast, use trail mix instead of cereal.
SUPER FOODS: cranberries and almonds
1/2 C peanut butter
1 T honey
granola, raisins, craisins, and leftover cereal.
Mix the peanut butter and honey, then freeze for about 20 minutes. Remove from freezer and roll into balls (a small spoonful each). Pop them back in the freezer for a few more minutes, as they’ll get warm from your hands. While those firm up, combine granola, raisins, craisins and any leftover cereal you’ve got in the house, like Cheerios, Rice Krispies, etc. Roll the peanut butter balls in the mixture to coat completely. Refrigerate until you’re ready to eat.
For the student athlete, try this:
Avocado English Muffin
I will eat just about anything if it has avocado in it — but they’re not cheap. Adding cream cheese when you mash them will make them stretch, plus feed a couple teens, or yourself. And adding spinach will sneak in a vegetable serving before the bell rings.
SUPER FOODS: avocado and spinach
1 Whole Wheat English Muffin
1/2 C fresh spinach leaves (finely chopped)
1-2 T cream cheese
kosher salt to taste.
Toast the English muffin. Slice the avocado and remove the fruit. Combine the avocado with the cream cheese, a pinch of salt and spinach. Spread over the muffin.
Better Breakfast Snacks
“The worst breakfast I ever saw a student eat was a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and a 2 liter of Mountain Dew,” Borrell says. “I cringed looking at it.”
If your teen is a fiend for chips, no matter what the hour, consider Better than Good Snacks. The local company produces protein puffs in four flavors: Ranch, Jalapeno Cheddar, Salted Caramel and Barbecue. Each bag contains 16 grams of protein and two servings of fruit and vegetables. They’re also gluten-free, Non-GMO, nut-free and soy-free.
Strapped for Time?
Put money in an account at school for a balanced breakfast. Many schools participate in the National School Breakfast Program through USDA. A breakfast (about $2) includes an entree item, fruit/juice and milk.
Jen Picciano is an Emmy winning reporter at WOIO-TV Cleveland 19 News, where she hosts a cooking segment, Cleveland Cooks. She also produces and hosts a weekly video podcast, Taste Buds, with local chefs Matt Mytro and David Kocab (available through WOIO), and appears on WQAL 104.1FM each week on “The Cleveland Feed,” to share the city’s latest food and dining news. She also is a regular contributor to the television station’s morning talk show, Sunny Side Up, and a special projects reporter there. In her “spare” time she writes a blog, Cheftovers, to showcase her clever use of leftovers and share her foodie adventures. She resides in Mayfield Heights with her husband and three daughters.