Is breakfast the weak link in your child's daily diet? A lot of parents say it is for theirs. In a new survey conducted by Barbara's, more than three-quarters of parents said they wished their kids ate a healthier breakfast, saying lack of time and kids who rejected nutritious foods were the biggest barriers to a better meal.
What's worse, the findings also revealed that one in five children skips breakfast at least once a week—and a quarter of kids who eat their AM meal on the go drink soda with it.
"School mornings are hectic, and if you don't prioritize breakfast, it can definitely fall through the cracks," says Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, a dietitian and mom of three who is working with Barbara's.
If you're struggling with any of these common breakfast pitfalls, here are some workarounds:
Pitfall #1: Sugary Cereal
Solution: The survey found that 95 percent of kids eat cereal for breakfast on school days—which can be a good thing if you choose wisely. When I'm shopping, I aim for roughly 5 grams of sugar or less per serving, a whole grain as one of the first ingredients, and a few grams of fiber (Barbara's Puffins cereal actually fits this bill and is one of my faves). If you can't find a low-sugar cereal your kids like, use my cereal hack: Mixed half sweetened cereal with half unsweetened, so every bite is still sweet (just not quite so much). Largeman-Roth says she puts out bowls of berries and chopped almonds to encourage her kids to add them to cereal to make it even more nutritious and filling.
Pitfall #2: Time Crunch
Solution: Hectic mornings may mean grabbing a less-than-wholesome meal (think donuts or Pop-Tarts) or skipping it entirely. Here's a simple idea that could help: You may already be in the habit of packing lunches and backpacks the night before, but take another two minutes and get ready for breakfast, says Largeman-Roth. "Clear clutter, and set out bowls, spoons, and napkins. Then all you need to do in the morning is serve the food," she says. She makes extra pancakes on the weekends then reheats them throughout the week. When all else fails, stock items that can be grabbed and eaten in the car or on the way to the bus, like a cup of yogurt or a frozen waffle spread with peanut butter.
Pitfall #3: Sweet Drinks
Solution: You might be surprised that so many kids drink soda with their breakfasts. Not as surprising: 71 percent of kids have fruit juice in the morning, which can also provide a lot of sugar. Sweet drinks can also quickly fill kids up so they're not hungry for food. And though a little bit of 100 percent juice is okay and contains all natural sugars, you should still watch portions. In new guidelines, the American Academy of Pediatrics says children ages 4-6 should have no more than 4-6 ounces a day and children ages 7-18 no more than 8 ounces. Instead of a straight-up glass of juice, use a little bit of juice in a smoothie along with frozen fruit, milk (dairy or non-dairy), and yogurt, and your child will be getting a lot more nutrition.
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author of The Snacktivist's Handbook: How to Change the Junk Food Snack Culture at School, in Sports, and at Camp—and Raise Healthier Snackers at Home. She also collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.