Now Serving: Breakfast! (FN694, Reviewed March 2018)

Enjoying more family meals adds up to better nutrition, stronger family bonds and children who are less likely to participate in risky behavior. Be flexible with meal schedules and locations of your family meals. If evenings are too hectic, would a regular family breakfast work for you?

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist

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Breaking the Fast

We all “fast” for seven or more hours a night when we sleep. “Break the fast” with some nourishing food. If you feel a little sluggish when you miss your morning meal, you have a good reason. You’re running your “engine” on empty. Eating breakfast restores your body’s supply of blood glucose, the brain’s main fuel source. Here are some benefits of breakfast:

  • Breakfast improves school performance. Children who skip breakfast have trouble staying on task in school and become tired and irritable.
  • Breakfast improves nutrition. Researchers have shown that children who eat breakfast are more likely to meet their needs for calcium, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, iron, vitamins A and D and other nutrients. They also eat less fat.
  • People who eat breakfast tend to eat more healthfully all day. Breakfast skippers usually don’t make up for the nutrients they missed at breakfast — and they may overeat later.

What’s the Best Breakfast?

Fuel your body and brain with nourishing food in the morning.

  • Aim for variety. Choose foods from three or four different food groups, such as a grain, meat, fruit and milk, for breakfast.
  • Have some protein. Researchers have shown that people who eat a protein-containing breakfast performed better on tests involving thinking and concentration. For example, having a glass of milk, container of yogurt, a piece of cheese, peanut butter on your toast or a hard-cooked egg all would add protein.
  • Choose cereal wisely. When shopping, look high on the shelves instead of at eye level or lower, where the kids’ cereals often are placed.

• Read the Nutrition Facts labels carefully. Compare fiber, sugar content, vitamins and minerals.
• Compare cereal prices. Consider store brands, and use the unit price found on most store shelves.
• Choose whole-grain cereals and whole-grain breads. To select whole-grain foods, check the first couple of items on the ingredient list. For example, look for oatmeal, whole wheat or whole grain. Look for a health claim on the package.

Family Fitness

Did you know children need 60 minutes of physical activity every day? Adults need 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity for health and 60 minutes to help prevent weight gain. How about an early morning family walk?

Quick Tips for Nutritious Breakfasts

  • Set the table the night before. Put the cereal box(es), bowls, spoons and glasses on the table.
  • If you want a heartier breakfast, such as pancakes or muffins, measure out the dry ingredients in a bowl the night before. Add the wet ingredients in the morning.
  • Make extra muffins and freeze them. Warm them in the microwave oven.
  • Make a breakfast casserole the evening before and refrigerate. Pop it in the oven in the morning.
  • Do you have a minute? Wrap some cheese in a tortilla, microwave 20 seconds and fill cups with orange juice.
  • Try peanut butter and banana sandwiches or leftover pizza and milk or 100 percent fruit juice.

Sample Breakfast Menus

  • Cereal with sliced bananas and milk
  • Homemade cereal mix with whole-grain cereal, nuts, dried fruit and milk
  • Graham crackers with peanut butter, and a fruit and yogurt smoothie
  • Waffles with fresh strawberries, lean ham and low-fat milk
  • Oatmeal with raisins and low-fat milk
  • Peanut butter on whole-wheat toast, apple slices and low-fat milk
  • Minipizzas made with English muffins, pizza sauce, cheese, Canadian bacon or other toppings and orange juice
  • Scrambled eggs, whole-wheat toast, orange slices and low-fat milk
  • Leftover pizza, sliced cantaloupe and low-fat milk
  • Scrambled eggs with salsa wrapped in tortillas, sliced peaches and low-fat milk


Breakfast Fruit Bowl

3 Tbsp. frozen orange juice concentrate
2 medium apples, washed and diced with peel
1 orange, peeled and diced
1 banana, peeled and sliced

Optional fruits: ½ c. grapes; 1 c. diced cantaloupe, watermelon or other fruit in season

Place orange juice in medium bowl. As fruits are prepared, add to bowl and toss lightly to cover with orange juice. Chill or serve immediately.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 100 calories, 0 g fat, 1 g protein, 26 mg carbohydrate, 3 g fiber and 0 mg sodium.

Recipe source: Washington State University.

Menu Idea: Breakfast Fruit Bowl, whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, low-fat milk


100 Percent Whole-wheat Muffins

½ c. margarine or butter
½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. light brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
¼ tsp. vanilla
1 c. milk, 1 percent or fat-free
2 c. whole-wheat flour

Preheat oven to 400 F. Have ingredients at room temperature. Line muffin tin using paper baking cups, or use cooking spray to coat the bottom of the muffin tin.

With electric mixer (or by hand), cream margarine, granulated sugar, brown sugar and baking soda together, scraping bowl with spatula. In a small bowl, using a fork, beat together the egg and vanilla; add to creamed mixture. Beat until light and fluffy. Add milk to creamed mixture. Gradually add whole-wheat flour and lightly stir ingredients together so dry ingredients are barely moistened. Overmixing will make the muffins tough and form tunnels.

Fill muffin tins two-thirds full and bake 15 to 17 minutes, or until browned. Remove from muffin tin and cool on wire rack.

Makes 12 muffins. Each muffin has about 200 calories, 8 g fat, 4 g protein, 29 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 190 mg sodium.

Recipe source: Wheat Foods Council

Safety Tip: Do not lick the spoon or eat the muffin batter because the recipe contains raw eggs. Wait until the batter is baked and then enjoy a nice, warm muffin!

Menu Idea: Scrambled eggs, Whole-wheat Muffin with jam, orange slices and low-fat milk

Cinnamon French Toast

2 eggs
4 egg whites*
1 c. milk
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
8 pieces toast, wheat or white
Toppings (vanilla yogurt, strawberries, blueberries)

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, egg whites, milk and cinnamon. Dip each piece of bread into the egg mixture and coat thoroughly. Place on a greased, preheated skillet and cook for about two minutes per side.

Makes four servings. Without added toppings, each serving has 230 calories, 5 g fat, 17 g protein, 29 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 410 mg sodium.

Recipe source: 3 a Day of Dairy

*Quick Tip: Refrigerate the leftover yolks and use in scrambled eggs the following day. Add three whole eggs and 1/3 cup milk, mix thoroughly and cook in skillet sprayed with nonstick spray. Top with salsa and cheese for a skillet meal for four.

Menu Idea: Cinnamon French Toast with strawberries, lean ham and low-fat milk


Eat Smart. Play Hard. Together

For more information about food safety and nutrition, contact your county office of the NDSU Extension Service.

Visit the NDSU Extension Service website.

For more information about healthful eating for the entire family.


“Eat Smart. Play Hard.” is an initiative of the Food and Nutrition Service, USDA.          


Reviewed April 2018

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