You’re a mom, so by definition you are busy. And the busier you are, the harder it is make sure you and your family are eating nutritious meals.
A client and friend recently expressed this feeling with regard to breakfast items. “Do you have any suggestions for fast healthy breakfasts in the morning?” she asked. She noted that cereal is fast and always popular at her house, but she was looking for “real food’ alternatives that she could pull together in a few minutes in the mornings with minimal clean-up.
What a great question! Who can deny the allure of placing a pile of Cheerios in front of your child to occupy her while you get ready for work? And though we might love to make veggie and cheese omelets for the entire family every morning, who has time for that?
Fortunately, there ARE ways to improve your breakfast menu AND still make it to work or drop your kids to school on time. They do require prep time, but you can do the preparation in advance. Here are five ideas.
1. Overnight oats. Instead of cooking your oats, blend them with yogurt, milk, mashed banana, frozen blueberries, cinnamon, salted and roasted almond butter, and some ground chia and/or flax for good measure. Toss in the fridge before bed, and it’ll be ready to eat in the morning. My palate tells me it lasts a good three days before it starts to lose its integrity, so make a bunch. I actually thought I invented this one until a friend told me about this “cool new recipe” that she read on some blog. To my credit, I do make mine differently – and better, obviously 😉 – than the one she read about, but the basic premise is the same. You’re limited only by your imagination with the ingredients, so don’t feel wed to the ones I use. I make these for myself, but they’d be good for anyone in the family.
2. Plain yogurt and fresh fruit. Note the word “plain” here. Yes, you can buy your yogurt with the fruit already inside, but you’re also going to get a lot of added sugar. Nobody needs that. Save time in the morning by mixing it all together the night before. Buy your fruit pre-cut from the grocery store if that helps. Frozen blueberries also work well. If you want to take it on the go, invest in some travel containers. If you’re looking to up your protein intake, eat plain Greek yogurt instead of regular.
3. Veggie frittata. This is one that my toddler eats. I saute frozen chopped spinach and kale then add that mixture to beaten eggs. I then pour it into an even layer in a frying pan, flip it once, and it’s done. A three-egg frittata lasts me three days. I use a LOT of greens, referring to the egg as a mere means of binding it all together, but you needn’t be as heavy-handed. 🙂 I think it’s tastiest fresh, but my daughter eats it straight from the fridge with no problem. If you want to really stock up, you could pour the same egg mixture into cupcake tins and make crustless quiches that you freeze. Then thaw in the fridge the night before you plan to eat one. Cheese would make a tasty addition to these too.
4. Make-ahead oatmeal. Is it just me, or does instant oatmeal taste gross? The science behind it mystifies me, since I think instant oatmeal is just pressed more thinly than rolled oats. Maybe the Quaker people just use gross-tasting oats? In any case, I know I prefer the taste and texture of the regular rolled oats, and I’ve heard at least some sources say they are nutritionally superior. If you feel similarly, you can make a huge vat and then freeze individual portions in ziptop bags. If you do this, definitely freeze them in a very thin layer to expedite future thawing. You can freeze them plain or as you plan to eat them. Cinnamon, blueberries, and a touch of salt make nice additions.
5. Hard boiled eggs. These are so portable! If you do plan to take these with you and are worried that you won’t have somewhere to put the cracked shells, you can peel them the night before. People boil these a lot of different ways. Here’s how I like to make mine: place the eggs in a pot and cover with water. Heat on high until water begins to boil. Lower heat and let the eggs slow boil for one minute. Remove the pan from the heat, cover the pot, and let them continue cooking for another 12 minutes. Immediately cool in an ice-water bath (this prevents the yolk from turning gray on the outside) before storing in the fridge.
And if you absolutely MUST have your breakfast cereal (and I’m not throwing stones here. I fall into this category), you know there are healthier and more natural choices out there than Lucky Charms, right? Some brands that get my general approval are Barbara’s, Nature’s Path, and Arrowhead Mills. I can’t speak for all their varieties, but I know the ones I eat are made with whole grains, have very little added sugar, and have no preservatives. Check your boxes carefully and abide my general rule of passing on any option with ingredients you can’t pronounce.