New federal guidelines aim to make school lunches more nutritious this year by requiring all students to take a fruit or vegetable with their meal. More whole grains and less saturated fat, trans fats and sodium are also part of the regulations.
A good move, for sure, but schools can only go so far to teach children about nutrition. Experts say that what they learn at home has a bigger influence. As parents, though, we know it's sometimes difficult to get children to eat what we know they should. It also requires planning and cooking.
What's that you say? They hate breakfast and hate even more that they have to wake up earlier to eat it? This school year, offer some new foods that might get them more excited about breakfast. If they hate eggs, don't force them. If they are fans of grilled-cheese sandwiches, get out the skillet and make them, but use whole-wheat bread and tuck a few thin slices of apple between the slices.
Here are some ideas for back-to-school breakfasts:
Leftovers: Seriously, heat up that chicken noodle soup, spaghetti or lasagna from last night. Who said breakfast has to be bacon and eggs?
Oatmeal: It's a turnoff for a lot of kids. But try the accompanying recipe for Almond Joy Oatmeal and they might just get hooked. Yes, it calls for a smattering of chocolate chips, but it's not much more than a tablespoon per person.
Burritos: With just beans for the vegan; add scrambled eggs for the omnivore. Try it on whole-wheat tortillas and add whatever fixings they like: grated cheese, salsa, chopped tomato, etc. If they just loved chopped onions, make sure those teeth are brushed before they leave the house!
Breakfast sandwiches: Make them on small bagels, English muffins, croissants, their favorite bread or even pita. Between the slices, layer scrambled eggs, shredded or sliced cheese and a slice of Canadian bacon. Or regular bacon. Or turkey bacon. Or sausage. They won't eat eggs? Substitute a tomato slice.
Smoothies: Many children love fruit, but it's good to mix it with protein to keep energy levels up. Add tofu, peanut butter or yogurt.
Muffins: Good with a thin layer of low-fat cream cheese, but stay away from muffins that are more like cupcakes. Go for carrot over chocolate. If you make your own, mix white and whole-wheat flour and add some fruit. Thinking ahead, bake a couple of dozen and freeze some. They will thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Parfaits: Sort of a solid version of the smoothie, but with added crunch. Layer yogurt with fruit and top with granola.
Waffle sandwich: Spread toasted whole-wheat waffles with butter, drizzle with maple syrup and sandwich with turkey sausage patties. For a savory version, butter and layer with cheddar cheese and ham.
Quick eats: Cereal is easy, but look for some that's not really candy in disguise. Add fruit to sweeten. Breakfast bars and yogurt are good morning choices, and so is toast with peanut butter.
Fruit AND cheese: String cheese and a nectarine; cheddar and a Granny Smith apple; dried apricots, nuts and a slice of Brie. Sound too sophisticated? Just give it a try.
PEANUT-BUTTER BANANA SMOOTHIE
1 small ripe banana, sliced
2 tablespoons peanut butter, creamy
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup cold milk
Banana slices and chopped peanuts for garnish, if desired
Set aside a slice of the banana for garnish, and put remaining banana, peanut butter and honey in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add milk and blend until foamy. Garnish with banana slice rolled in chopped peanuts, if desired. Serve immediately.
Makes about 1-1/2 cups (1 serving).
1/2 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, sliced
Granulated sugar for sprinkling (optional)
Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
In a large mixing bowl with an electric handheld mixer on high setting, cream butter and sugar; beat in eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Blend in vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl, stir together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
With a wooden spoon, stir flour mixture into creamed mixture. Gradually stir in lemon peel and buttermilk until dry ingredients are just moistened; do not over-mix. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Evenly spoon sliced strawberries onto the center of each muffin and sprinkle each with a little granulated sugar, if using.
Bake strawberry muffins at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes. Gently turn strawberry muffins onto the rack to cool. To freeze, make sure they are cooled completely and pack in an airtight container.
ALMOND JOY OATMEAL
3-1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup chopped almonds
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup chocolate chips
In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cocoa powder, salt and almond extract and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking to ensure mixture is well-combined. Stir in oats. Return to a boil; reduce heat to low. Cook for 1 minute (5 minutes for old-fashioned oats), stirring occasionally.
Remove oatmeal from heat and divide among 4 bowls. Top each with chopped almonds, coconut and chocolate chips.