Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Back to School: Smart Kids Know What They Like – So Feed Them to Fuel Brainpower

August 16th, 2012 · 4 Comments

Make food fun and eye-appealing for kids, too – they’re more likely to eat it. /photo courtesy Prenatal and Beyond Facebook page

Come on, parents: Think outside the box – of cereal.

Study after study shows that kids who eat breakfast score higher on all levels at study. Athletes fuel their bodies before competition – students should fuel their minds. Bodies that are growing wake up and need something in them to get moving, functioning long before a lunch hour.

If an army moves on its stomachs, the classrooms move on breakfasts. And there are better choices than a sugary cold cereal.

But what about….

Convenience? “We can barely get him out of bed – there’s no time for breakfast.” (But everyone’s got time to read emails and Facebook posts? Hmmm…)

There are fast breakfasts that can be made in less than 10 minutes at home at very low cost to the cook. We live in 2012 – there are microwaves and toaster-convection ovens.

“They won’t eat breakfast food.”

Maybe they don’t like eggs or cereal – some of us never did. So make them a breakfast pizza – or a Chinese stir fry. (Yes, think outside that box.) Or a turkey-burger.

If you must go the cereal route, natural oatmeal beats the boxed puff and stuff – and is cheaper by dollars. It can be dressed up with fresh fruits just like cereal – or have a spoon of nut butter stirred into it to appease kiddie tastebuds.

And get this: You can make it the night before (takes 10 minutes, tops) and simply dish it up in the morning. (Recipe for Refrigerator Oatmeal is below.)

A smoothie – with fresh fruit, made with yogurt or buttermilk, is an option for those who prefer grab and go. Kids like using the blender, so if you teach them how to do it, there’s a chance they’ll make their own. It’s portable for teens on the go, too. Freeze fresh fruits such as bananas to use in place of ice cubes. Add a couple of spoons of that Refrigerator Oatmeal, and you’ve got a breakfast rocket fuel.

Kids love pizza – there’s simply no way around that. So make a breakfast pizza – use whole wheat pitas or bagels and smear them with pizza sauce, add some sausage or bacon, if you like, and cheese and run it under the broiler.

Do they eat fish sticks or chicken nuggets? Make your own, the night before, and heat them up in the microwave.

Is it pasta? Make “pasta” out of spaghetti squash (don’t tell!) – you can do it in the microwave – and heat up a plate of that in under 3 minutes. (Recipe below.)

They love sandwiches. That’s a cinch: Make 2 sandwiches – one for breakfast, and one for lunch. (A study once found kids eating their sandwiches on the way to school anyway.) If they want roast beef for breakfast, or tuna salad, or grilled cheese, let them have it. (Teach older ones to make their own.) It’s all about getting them fueled.

They like to make their own breakfast. Even better! Show them how to make a microwave omelet: Crack a couple of eggs, add mix-ins (cooked meats, onions, peppers, mushrooms), close the bag tightly and squish it to mix. Cook it for 2 minutes, 30 seconds on high. Open carefully and pour out the finished omelet onto the plate.

Salads? No problem: Have a plate of deviled eggs ready to cut into the green salad in the morning. (Use low-fat yogurt to bind the egg mixture for stuffing eggs, by the way.) Or serve a fruit salad – and a cup of that overnight oatmeal.

The point is – anything goes. Doesn’t have to be an expensive box of cereal that they’ve pumped vitamins into and charged you for.

Overnight oatmeal

  • 1 cup uncooked oats (steel-cut old-fashioned preferred)
  • 2 cups buttermilk OR plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup fruit juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh or dried berries, or dates, figs, raisins
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

Stir all ingredients together in a glass bowl; cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Makes approximately 4 servings (3/4 cup).

Microwave omelet

  • zip-lock heavy plastic bag
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated cheese
  • 2 tablespoons salsa (optional)
  • Mix-ins of choice: chopped green or white onion, mushrooms, black olives, bacon bits, chopped cooked ham, cooked sausage, peppers

Crack eggs into plastic bag; zip closed and squish to break up eggs and mix. Add cheese and salsa if using. Add other mix-ins as desired. Zip bag, squeezing out air. Cook on high in microwave 2-1/2 minutes. Open bag carefully away from face and pour out onto plate. Serve hot.

Makes 1 omelet.

Spaghetti squash pasta

  • 1 spaghetti squash, halved, cleaned of seeds
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • grated cheese of your choice
  • Options: cooked sausage, cooked bacon

Set the squash on a microwaveable plate face down. Add 2 tablespoons water. Cover all tightly with plastic wrap. Cook on high power in the microwave for 6 minutes; check tenderness. Remove and flip squash. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to center of squash; cook 4 minutes more. A fork should easily pierce the flesh of the squash.

Remove. Using a large meat fork, drag the tines along the flesh of the squash to form ribbons of “pasta.” Cool and refrigerate to use later.

To cook, warm pasta sauce in medium pot; add squash-pasta. Stir to combine; top with cheese, cooked sausage or bacon if desired, and serve hot.

Makes 6 to 8 servings, depending on size of squash.


Tags: Brunch and Breakfast · Kids' Cooking · Recipes · Recipes: What's Cooking!

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Susan // Aug 16, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Very good and very true! Mac and cheese in morning that is a dinner leftover can be reheated in micro! pasta same deal with butter and cheese. pizza is great or rice even!

    A poached egg takes minutes, a scrambled or fried egg very fast to make with toast.

    Wake your kids earlier for a good breakfast! It matters.

  • 2 Merrie Lee // Aug 16, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Great breakfast ideas— for parents and grandparents, too! We need that fuel for the day, too.

  • 3 Denise // Aug 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    These are some good suggestions, Jan. I would encourage your readers who have kids to attend Let’s Move Boca Health & Wellness Fair taking place on Oct 21st in Downtown Boca where there will be a healthy cooking stage with live demos. The day will be packed with lots of tools and resources for the entire family to lead a more healthy and active lifestyle. Hope to see you there. http://www.LetsMoveBoca.org

  • 4 Nora // Aug 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Whole wheat chips and salsa are my seven year olds favorite!

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