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A bounty of ideas for healthful breakfasts

Granola wedges are a chewy, crunchy and gluten-free snack made with all whole foods. (Washington Post photo)

By Casey Seidenberg

Special to the Washington Post

Parents are beginning to again contemplate carpools, homework and how to keep hectic mornings moving smoothly. Because we shouldn't send our kids off to school without a healthful meal, we should start contemplating breakfast, too. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, two-thirds of teenage girls and half of teenage boys don't eat breakfast, even though it has proven to be essential to help them focus and maintain energy levels in school. Let's move our kids, no matter what age, into the habit of beginning their days healthfully.

There are three key nutrients that make up a wholesome breakfast.


Provides concentrated energy for the body

Constructs the brain

Repairs tissue

Keeps the body satisfied longer

Healthful fat:

Supplies energy

Builds the brain

Slows absorption of other parts of the meal, keeping the body satisfied longer


Reduces risk of heart disease

Lowers cholesterol

Keeps the body full longer

Where to start

Serve any of these items with a side of fruit for a healthful breakfast.



Scrambled (add veggies)

Egg nest: whole grain toast with an egg fried in a hole in the middle

Breakfast burrito: scrambled eggs and cheese in a whole-grain wrap

Frittata (Make in advance and heat up a slice, or make as muffins so they're easy to reheat, grab and go.)

Green eggs and ham (Chop a handful of spinach into tiny pieces and toss with eggs before scrambling. Serve with a side of nitrate-free bacon or ham.)


Start with a frozen banana

Add any combination of fresh or frozen fruit (berries, pineapple, mango, cherries)

For added nutrition, throw in a handful of greens (spinach, kale)

For protein: 1 tablespoon nut butter, a handful of raw cashews or sunflower seeds, or ½ cup plain yogurt

For a creamier texture: ½ cup almond milk or coconut milk

Add water if needed until it blends smoothly

Nuts and seeds

Low-sugar granola

Granola Wedges

Banana spread with nut butter

Breakfast quesadilla: whole-grain tortilla spread with nut butter and sliced berries

Almond pancakes or waffles (make a big batch over the weekend and reheat in the toaster)

Whole grains:

Pre-soaked oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice or millet topped with honey or maple syrup and fruit (soak your grain in the fridge overnight and then just heat up)

Whole-grain muffins (make on Sunday for the week)

Oatmeal pancakes (make a big batch over the weekend and reheat in toaster during the week)


Yogurt parfait with fruit and nuts or granola

Other ideas

Sweet potato pancakes

Smoked salmon and mascarpone or cream cheese on sliced bread

A piece of whole-grain toast with sliced avocado sprinkled with salt and pepper

Scrambled tofu

Nitrate-free turkey or chicken sausage

Packaged breakfasts: What to consider

If a packaged breakfast is the only option, here are some things to consider, along with my rundown of the most healthful options based on those criteria.

Frozen waffles

1. Whole-grain flour should be the first ingredient after water

2. No trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil

3. Low in sugar (less than 5 grams)

4. Low in sodium (less than 360 mg)

5. High in fiber (3 or more grams)

6. Free of artificial dyes (often used for golden coloring)

7. Think about your toppings. Try fresh fruit, nuts, grade B pure maple syrup.

Best: Vans 8 Whole Grains, Kashi 7 Grain, Nature's Path Ancient Grain, 365 Multigrain

Boxed cereals

Cereals that are made with whole grains in their original form, such as oats, millet, muesli or low-sugar granola, are the most healthful. There is controversy about the extrusion process that manipulates grains into shapes and puffs to make cereal. Some studies have shown that the high-heat process inactivates raw food enzymes, denatures proteins and simplifies starches, too many of which can contribute to diabetes. So the best bet is to stick with the whole grain.

According to a recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, 47 brand-name boxed cereals have more sugar than a Twinkie or three Chips Ahoy cookies, including the seemingly wholesome General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios, Wheaties Fuel, Kellogg's Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisps. Twinkies for breakfast? No way!

1. "Whole" grain should be the first ingredient

2. No trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil

3. Low in sugar: at most 8 grams, ideally less than 5

4. 3 or more grams of fiber

5. Low sodium

Best: Purely Elizabeth, Nature's Path Organics, Dorset, Kind, Udi's, Go Raw, Back to Nature

If these brands are too pricey for your family, the EWG also rated big-brand cereals. These ranked highest for nutrition: Post Shredded Wheat, Post Grape-Nuts Flakes, Post Bran Flakes, Kellogg's Mini-Wheats

Granola Bars

Like boxed cereal, many granola bars have as much sugar and chemical ingredients as a packaged dessert, so pay attention to the ingredient list.

1. Ingredients should be all or mostly whole foods such as raw seeds, nuts and dried fruit

2. A whole grain, nut or seed should be the first ingredient

3. No trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil

4. Less than 10 grams of sugar

5. 3 or more grams of fiber

6. Low sodium

Best: Kind, Lara (some varieties are higher in sugar but are made from all whole foods), 18 Rabbits, Kashi (some of the flavors are lower in sugar than others and have fewer ingredients; look for these), ProBar