Friday, March 14, 2014

How to Have a Healthy Breakfast. Every Single Day.

The pattern tutorial isn't quite (at all) ready, so here is something I hope will be helpful to the internet at large.

Working with preschoolers, I have learned that if I don't have a good breakfast in the morning, I can't do my job well. I lose my temper when I'm hungry, and there is no one like a preschooler to push all the wrong buttons when they know you're on the edge. I can sacrifice a shower in the morning, but I am not allowed to leave the house without breakfast.

Then there's Kai. He is a preschooler, and he wakes up ravenous. He's never been much of a dinner eater- he gets most of his daily calories from breakfast, lunch, and snacks, so I try to be sure they're good ones.

I need fuel to power my Lego marathon!

The modern lifestyle pushes us more and more towards convenience foods, and it is hard to push back, especially when I work full time and have never been much of a morning person. It seems like life, and especially parenting, is a constant series of decisions about what principles you are going to stand firm on, and what you are willing to let go of. I've let go of the battle against the television, at least somewhat, but I haven't yet given up on trying to make sure we eat a healthy diet that is also somewhat friendlier towards the planet than the norm. I consider breakfast one of my big successes- every day, Kai and I eat a balanced meal made of fresh, nutritious foods, and I don't spend more than five minutes in the morning prepping it. Here's how I do it.

1. I have a pattern. 

Mornings are much easier if I don't have to think. So breakfast has a set pattern- whole grain carbohydrate, fruit, protein. That way, the questions I have to ask aren't huge- What am I making?- but simple- banana or blackberries? Here are some of the meals I serve regularly, and mix and match.

- Whole grain pancake with sunflower seed butter, banana. (This is Kai's very favorite breakfast and what he eats most days.)
- Plain yogurt with homemade granola, berries
- Whole grain French toast with all-fruit jelly, pear slices. 
- Oatmeal with raisins and applesauce, glass of milk.
- Homemade muffin, yogurt, apple slices.
- Whole grain toast with nut butter and bananas.

2. I plan ahead

You probably noticed the word "homemade" a few times up there. And no, I am not making a batch of muffins or pancakes on a school morning! Every weekend, I try to make at least one think that I can serve for breakfast during the week. A double batch of Sunday morning pancakes, an entire loaf of bread into French toast, or a batch of the banana muffins that Kai loves to help me make. I freeze these on cookie sheets and then bag them up, and I know by now exactly how long it takes to thaw them out. (One minute and fifteen seconds for one pancake). I always make sure to have fresh fruit on hand, and some frozen back ups too. 
Pancakes frozen and ready for bagging up.

I know a lot of what I serve for breakfast has a reputation for being unhealthy. I mean, we have pancakes, French toast, and muffins almost every day! The truth is, though, that these foods aren't by their nature actually unhealthy. It's the restaurant and pre-made versions that have ruined their reputation. I use only whole grain flour and bread, limited sweetener, limited fats, and almost always include fruits and vegetables in the recipes. I rarely serve them with syrup, but when I do, it's the real thing and the portions are small. I would much rather eat these than the alternatives- pop tarts, instant flavored oatmeal, granola bars, sugary cereal, etc.

I will add the recipes I use for weekend baking as I make them over the next few weeks- check back for links. 

3. I have a Plan B

I know me. Even five minutes is too much on that morning when I sleep through my alarm and spill coffee on the floor, and there's sometimes a Friday when the fruit has run out and I didn't make it to the store. For those days, I have a packaged alternative which I can feel okay about Kai eating every once in a while. Right now, my emergency backup breakfast is Kashi cereal bars and an applesauce pouch. A little more sugar than I like, a little more processed than I would want, but not a pop tart! And that's what really matters, right?

Some of you might be wondering what Guy eats- I haven't said much about him here. The fact is, I'm not home when he eats, so I don't really know!

So there it is! My plan for an easy, healthy breakfast, every day.

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