A Metro Detroit registered dietitian shares easy and nutritious breakfast ideas that will give your student the best fuel for school.
By Annica Wyskochil
It is that time of year again! Whether you are a parent preparing to send your child back to school or a college student gearing up for the semester, nutrition plays a key role in every student’s success. Both the body and brain run off glucose as a main source of fuel. When our fuel tank is running low or on empty after a full night of sleep, the results are the sensation of hunger, brain fog and fatigue, all of which contribute to difficulties learning in the classroom. Be smart and break the fast by incorporating a quality breakfast to fuel the body and brain, starting the school day — and every day — right.
Students who eat breakfast regularly have been shown to have better test scores, improved memory and focus, and are less likely to be overweight. Choosing to eat breakfast may be the simplest yet most important choice you can make in the morning. But what constitutes a quality breakfast? Consider my “fuel for school” recommendations as part of your morning routine to create a smart breakfast that will keep you fueled for the day:
1. Fill up on fiber. Fiber is not only important for regularity and the prevention of constipation, but it also promotes steady blood sugar levels which is important in providing steady fuel throughout the day. Students will be more likely to experience a mid-morning crash, leaving them inattentive and fatigued, if they eat a breakfast lacking in fiber and high in simple sugar such as pancakes made from white flour topped with syrup containing high fructose corn syrup or cereal high in added sugar. Whole grains and starchy vegetables provide both the fuel the body and brain need but also the fiber to keep the body and brain fueled for longer. Favor choices such as whole wheat bread or English muffins, potatoes or oats to fuel your morning. Incorporate vegetables and fruit into your morning routine to provide fiber as well as nutrients. Non-starchy vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, high in fiber and low in calories and carbohydrates. These are easy to hide in smoothies or shakes for picky eaters or add into a veggie omelet.
2. Plan for protein. Studies report that higher amounts of protein can lessen cravings. Protein is also the building block for tissues and important for growth. Quality sources of protein include eggs, Greek yogurt, cheese, milk, meat, poultry, legumes (beans, peas, lentils, nuts) and soy products. Aim to limit foods such as bacon and sausage which are higher in saturated fat, and consider more leaner choices such as lean ham or turkey.
3. Fuel up with fats. In addition to keeping the body and brain fueled for longer, fats are important in supporting neurological function and allowing the brain to function optimally. Include healthy fats such as avocado, dairy, nuts or seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds) in your breakfast.
Here are a few examples of school smart breakfasts:
Day 1: Whole wheat or Kodiak waffles OR whole wheat or Kodiak pancakes
Whole grain: Kodiak waffles or pancakes (this brand has a very minimal ingredient list containing whole grain wheat flour and protein)
- Fruit: Your choice of berries (strawberries, raspberries or blueberries) or other fruit to top the waffles or pancakes
- Healthy fat: Natural peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower butter to spread on the waffles or pancakes
Optional: Honey, agave, or maple syrup (sugar is sugar; however, these options can provide healthier alternatives to store-bought syrup containing high fructose corn syrup)
Time-saving hack: Purchase frozen Kodiak waffles to quickly toast in the morning.
Day 2: Greek yogurt fruit smoothie OR Greek yogurt parfait
Protein: Plain Greek yogurt and cow’s milk (milk alternatives such as almond milk provide little protein, if any, but can still be used in place of cow’s milk)
*Vegan option: Tofu in smoothie (this may sound odd to some readers but it blends in smooth and has no added taste)
- Whole grain: Whole grain granola (aim for an option lower in added sugar — ideally 5 grams or less per serving)
- Fruit: Your choice of berries, ½ – 1 full banana or other fruit
- Healthy fat: Almonds, walnuts, natural nut butter, sunflower butter, chia seeds or flax seeds
Time-saving hack: Package up your measured-out smoothie ingredients and store in refrigerator or freezer to simply add to the blender morning of
Day 3: Oatmeal OR quinoa
Whole grain: Oats, quinoa (both options are also gluten free)
- Fruit: Your choice of berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), apples or other fruit
- Healthy fat: Nuts, natural peanut butter, almond butter or sunflower butter
Time-saving hack: Prepare overnight oats or quinoa and simply microwave the morning of
Day 4: English muffin breakfast sandwich OR Whole wheat bagel breakfast sandwich
Whole grain: Whole wheat English muffin, whole wheat bagel
- Protein: Eggs, cheese, sliced turkey, lean ham or turkey sausage
- Vegetables: Tomato, spinach or other vegetables
- Healthy fat: Avocado
Day 5: Cottage cheese OR cottage cheese on sweet potato
Protein: Cottage cheese
- Vegetables: Tomato, salsa, sweet potato, or other vegetables
- Fruit: Pineapple, blueberries, peaches or other fruit
Time-saving hack: Microwave sweet potato or cut slices and toast in toaster
Day 6: Veggie omelet OR eggs with whole wheat toast
Protein: Eggs, cheese
*Vegan option: Tofu veggie scramble
- Whole grain: Whole wheat toast
- Vegetables: Your choice of vegetables (onions, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes)
- Healthy fat: Avocado or guacamole to top omelet or toast
Time-saving hack: Choose to purchase or hard boil your eggs prior, purchase or pre-cut vegetables to add to omelet, microwave eggs in a microwave safe dish until cooked through, bake vegetables and beaten eggs in muffin tins to store in refrigerator and microwave morning of
Day 7: Breakfast tacos OR breakfast burritos
Protein: Eggs scrambled, cheese, turkey sausage, beans
*Vegan option: Tofu scramble
Whole grain: Corn tortilla (gluten-free option), whole wheat tortilla
- Vegetables: Onions, peppers, tomatoes, salsa or pico de gallo
- Healthy fat: Avocado or guacamole
Time-saving hack: Prepare the breakfast burritos ahead of time, store in refrigerator or freezer, and microwave the morning of
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day as it sets students up for greater success both physically and mentally. Create one of the many school smart breakfast options provided or consider my “fuel for school” recommendations and create your own quality breakfast that will keep you or your student fueled for longer.
Be a good role model for your child by sitting down with your child and eating breakfast with them to implement the importance of breakfast and family time. Break the fast and make time for breakfast!
Annica Wyskochil is a registered dietitian at the Life Time Bloomfield Hills location. She has worked among various age groups educating individuals on the impact nutrition has on our health and how we can make it a priority in our lifestyle. She has a passion for educating and encouraging others to fuel their bodies properly in order to feel their greatest and perform optimally. When Annica is not working, she enjoys weight lifting, cooking and trying new things with friends and family.