What's a Healthy Breakfast for Kids? Here Are 10 Great Ideas

Convenience often beats nutrition when it comes to breakfast decisions. One of our recent surveys found that “lack of time” and “too much work” were cited as barriers to a healthy breakfast.

For busy parents on-the-go, juggling work and kids can be challenging. We don’t want our children to be late for school, but at the same time, we don’t want them to skip breakfast. But the top go-to breakfast choices are refined grain products, foods like cold cereal, waffles, pancakes, toast, and bagels. And, as a result, most kids are having plenty of refined carbs with their morning meals, but not much protein. And fruit intake is pretty scanty, too.

What Is a Healthy Breakfast for Kids?

There’s more to breakfast than a full stomach. Kids need healthy carbohydrates like whole-grain breads and cereals and fresh fruits to provide fuel to active muscles and busy brains. And a good shot of protein in the morning from foods like eggs and low-fat dairy products not only keeps kids from getting too hungry, but it also helps keep them mentally alert.

The recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 says that our kids aren’t getting nearly enough calcium, vitamin D, potassium or fiber in their diets. All of these could be supplied by a breakfast that included fruit, dairy products, and whole grains.

Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas for Busy Parents

We’re all busy in the morning, and it may be tempting to take the path of least resistance when it comes to making sure that kids eat. If they say they’re not hungry, why push? If they’re in a rush, busy parents may find it easier – or believe it’s faster – to pick something up on the way to school than to help kids put together a healthy breakfast at home.

Here are my top recommendations and recipes for a simple yet nutritious breakfast:

1. Prepare a bowl of high-fiber cereal with milk and fruit.

Most breakfast cereals marketed to kids are low in fiber and high in sugar, but there are plenty of healthier options that kids will accept. High fiber flaked cereals and small biscuit shapes will usually appeal and make a balanced breakfast when topped with protein-rich dairy, soy or pea milks and fruit.

2. Make a slice of whole-grain toast paired with some yogurt topped with fruit.

While the bread is toasting, let the kids make their own yogurt “parfaits” by layering plain yogurt with berries, nuts, seeds, and cinnamon.  If the yogurt is too tart, add a dab of honey – you’ll likely add much less sugar than what you find in pre-sweetened yogurts.

3. Whip up a quick protein smoothie in the blender.

Start with a high-protein milk – dairy, soy or pea, for instance – add some protein powder and fresh or frozen fruits. Let kids get creative with add-ins like nuts or nut butter, seeds, avocado, carrots, spinach, rolled oats, and spices. 

4.  Pizza omelet.

What kid wouldn’t love pizza for breakfast? Top an omelet with prepared pizza sauce and a sprinkle of grated low-fat mozzarella cheese and serve with some fresh fruit.

5.  Whole-grain strawberry cheesecake waffle. 

Frozen toaster waffles are so convenient, but check labels and look for those that are whole grain. Top the toasted waffle with a spread of low-fat ricotta cheese and sliced strawberries.

6.  Microwave an egg in a cup.

Lightly oil a large coffee mug and crack two eggs into the mug. Beat well and microwave for 1 minute. Let kids sprinkle with toppings such as finely chopped veggies or grated low-fat cheese and microwave an additional 30-60 seconds.

7. Overnight oats.

Another healthy breakfast that kids love to put together. Combine 1/3 cup milk, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, 2 teaspoons chia seeds, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 cup berries in a jar with a lid. Shake until combined; refrigerate overnight. This can be eaten cold or warmed in the microwave. 

8. Avocado toast with hard-boiled egg 

Kids like to eat the way grownups do, so here’s a breakfast for the whole family. Spread avocado over a slice of whole-grain toast and top with a sliced hard-boiled egg; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Adults (and some kids!) might like the addition of sliced red onion, sliced tomato, or even a drizzle of hot sauce. 

9.  Fruit kabobs and yogurt

Thread whole strawberries and chunks of banana, melon, and pineapple onto skewers, and let kids dip fruit into vanilla yogurt.

10.  Leftovers! 

There’s no law that says you have to eat breakfast foods for breakfast! Kids might enjoy eating last night’s soup, stir-fry, or pasta for a savory treat in the morning.

Remember, just because a belly is full doesn’t mean the brain and muscles are getting the fuel they need. And while breakfast is the most important meal of the day, good nutrition should be practiced at every meal and snack so that great habits can form over time.

For more healthy eating tips, check out these 17 Healthy Snack Ideas Your Kids Will Love.

Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND –Sr.Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Susan BowermanM.S., R.D., CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Susan Bowerman earned a B.S. in biology with distinction from the University of Colorado, and received her M.S. in food science and nutrition from Colorado State University. She is a registered dietitian, holds two board certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a certified specialist in sports dietetics, and a certified specialist in obesity and weight management, and is a Fellow of the Academy.