Feeding Your Family: Making a Morning Meal That Works

By Larissa Phillips

Studies show that if breakfast is offered - any breakfast - kids are two-thirds more likely to eat. So put something, anything, out!

I love breakfast - just not the minute I wake up. It's a good hour or two before my body wants anything to do with pancakes or fried eggs or even oatmeal, my favorite meal in the morning. But I have kids, and an early breakfast is essential. More and more studies are indicating that what you eat in the morning affects how you perform for the rest of the day.

That's common sense, right? And yet, not enough kids are eating what they need. According to the American Cereal Council, 30 percent of U.S. elementary school kids go to school without breakfast at least once a week. And the Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that half of all teenagers skip breakfast more often than they eat it.

Breakfast on the Run?

Try these Apple-Oatmeal Bars. For crispier bars, use a whole stick of butter and just half a cup of applesauce. Feel free to add leftover cooked oats to the recipe.

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

  • 4 Tbs. honey or a sweetener
    with a low-glycemic level,
    like agave syrup

  • 2-1/2 cups rolled oats

  • 2 Tbs. sunflower seeds

  • 1 Tbs. pumpkin seeds

  • 2 Tbs. flax seeds, finely ground
    in a spice grinder (optional)

  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

  • 1 cup applesauce


    1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

    2. Butter an 8-inch square pan. Melt butter over low heat. Dissolve brown sugar and honey into the butter.

    3. Mix oats, seeds, cinnamon and applesauce. Add sugar-butter mixture. Mix well and press firmly into pan.

    4. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until just browning on the edges. If the bars seem crumbly, press the mixture into the pan again, and then cut into squares.
  • I sympathize. It's hard to eat breakfast when you're barely awake and don't even have time to work up an appetite before you're getting whisked off to school. But all these skipped meals can lead to things like weight gain, decreased ability to concentrate, poor performance in school and poor eating habits in the future.

    My family struggled with breakfasts all through my son's preschool and kindergarten years. But now that he's in first grade, we are a lean, mean morning machine! We have an 8:08 a.m. bus to catch, followed by an 8:30 a.m. daycare drop off. There is no time for dawdling! We are up at 7 a.m. and at the table by 7:20; dressed and ready to focus on the meal (even if, on some mornings, that just means extremely focused whining).

    We usually start with a shared plate of sliced or peeled fruit to nibble on while everyone finishes waking up and I do my whirling dervish interpretation: packing lunches, zipping backpacks, finding shoes, grabbing the occasional sip of coffee and, finally, serving up breakfast. On most days, we have oatmeal - not the plain old rolled oats I grew up with. My husband, the oatmeal connoisseur, has turned everyone in the family on to the stone-ground kind. It comes in a tin and takes a whopping 30 minutes to prepare, which I admit is a problem on school mornings.

    One year we used an slow-cooker overnight, so it was piping hot in the morning. But now I just let it soak overnight in its cooking water. In the morning, my husband turns on the flame before he even starts the coffee; it cooks in less than 15 minutes and is worth every bit of effort. You'd never guess this humble staple food could be so amazing. Of course, it helps that I add a knob of butter, a healthy dollop of molasses, and then hide a nugget of brown sugar at the bottom. But my children love it; and so do I, even at 7:30 in the morning.

    The taste is great, but even better is the fact that choosing oatmeal - even the instant kind - gives kids a real boost in the morning. According to a study by nutritionists at Tufts University, oatmeal is the best breakfast out there for enhanced brain performance.

    If your kids don't like it hot, try this recipe for delicious oatmeal bars. My son, who survives on about 12 food items per year, has given it a thumbs up, which is the highest praise I know.

    Larissa Phillips is an award-winning writer, food lover and former editor for United Parenting Publications.

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