Health Topics A-Z




























Breakfast of Champions: Parents' Guide to Fast & Healthy Breakfasts for Kids

From the Show: Eat Right Radio
Summary: When you're in a hurry, do you resort to a quick and easy breakfast for your kids? It may not be as healthy as they need to get them through the school day.
Air Date: 3/11/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Marina Chaparro, MPH, RDN
Chaparro Marina 1163Marina Chaparro’s background includes clinical nutrition, outpatient counseling, public health and program planning, research, and public speaking. As a diabetes educator at the pediatric endocrinology department at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, she provides comprehensive diabetes education and trains patients on the use of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors. Chaparro is the founder of Nutrichicos, a bilingual children’s nutrition center that offers individual assessments and personalized programs. On her blog, Chaparro shares reliable, practical and science-driven recommendations to improve children’s eating habits in Spanish and English. She co-created a successful nutrition and physical activity program at Miami Children’s Hospital for Hispanic adolescents and their mothers called Healthy Chicas. Chaparro is a graduate of Boston University and earned a master’s degree in public health from Florida International University.
Breakfast of Champions: Parents' Guide to Fast & Healthy Breakfasts for Kids
Let’s face it, mornings are often hectic and rushed, leaving breakfast as the last priority for families. As many as 10-30% of school-aged kids report skipping breakfast.

However, breakfast should be the first priority of the day, as it can enhance a child’s development and academic success. Studies show that breakfast eaters tend to have higher school attendance, less tardiness and fewer hunger-induced stomach aches in the morning.

Want smarter children?

It starts by building a healthy breakfast that goes beyond cereal and milk.

Breakfast doesn’t need to be complicated; it can be simple, fast and nutritious. The key to having successful breakfasts every day is to plan ahead get your kids involved.

Learn from Marina Chaparro, MPH, how to build fast, nutritious and hassle-free breakfast meals for champions.

Melanie Cole (Host):  Let’s face it. Mornings are often hectic and rushed, leaving breakfast as the last priority for families as many as 30 percent of school-aged kids report skipping breakfast. However, breakfast should be the first priority of the day as it can enhance a child’s development and academic success. My guest today is Marina Chaparro. She’s a diabetes educator at the Pediatric Endocrinology Department at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital. Welcome to the show, Marina. Tell us a little bit about how important breakfast is and why do you think so many Americans skip breakfast altogether.

Marina Chaparro (Guest):  You named it—so happy to be here—but breakfast is the challenging meal because we’re all rushing. We’re all real people and breakfast sometimes is the last priority. However, we as parents, we want the best for our kids. Studies show time and time again that kids who eat breakfast tend to do better at school. They tend to have better math course. Their behavior is improved. They even are less tardy at school. If we want smart children, parents, we need to get that breakfast in the door. 

Melanie:  Okay, so what are good healthy breakfasts, Marina? Because parents run around, they think these cereals—the cereals are misleading on the box—they look at all these kinds of different juices. What is good? How much protein do you want our children to have? How much carbohydrate or grains in the morning? What’s going to keep them awake as they’re in school all day?

Marina:  Breakfast doesn’t need to be complicated or boring, right? We can go beyond that cereal-and-milk. Sometimes that cereal-and-milk is the fastest thing to do, but I’m going to share a couple of things that some of our parents can do to really make sure that breakfast is simple and it’s fast and nutritious, really like the breakfast of champions. One key thing that we got to remember is really how is that breakfast constructed, right? Breakfast quality is equally as important, so we need to talk about what do we serve our kids? If we can put in at least three food groups in breakfast, that’s a gold star breakfast. What do I mean by three food groups? If we can put in a protein, like some peanut butter, like some egg, like some turkey, if we could do a grain like a whole wheat grain, whether it’s a whole grain cereal, an English muffin, a mini whole wheat bagel. Dairy is extremely important; we can do calcium, which is high in protein as well, or we can also do a fruit. If we think about three of these nutrients, we’re talking about a gold star breakfast. 

Melanie:  What do we do, Marina, if our children tell us, first of all, they don’t have time for breakfast? Especially our teens, they’re running off to catch the bus, sometimes as early as 6:30 in the morning and they just want to either grab something. There’s granola bars on the market. There’s yoghurt granola bars on the market. Are any of these an adequate breakfast for them to just run out the door with or do we get them up earlier and make them sit there and have a scrambled egg and the gold star breakfast? 

Marina:  Both of these options do work, obviously if we prep the day before where you’re just going to have a better success at really having breakfast. Being prepared, number one, is key. As parents are always on the go, if we’re truly going to make a complicated meal, the morning time is not going to be the best time. Number two you just said is equally as important: Just because it’s on the go, that doesn’t mean it can’t be nutritious.
For example, always having some fruit product, making sure they can just grab and go a little container for the bus to take. Or even some high quality protein that we can have like Trail Mix. That’s just an easy, quick finger food that’s going to give them some protein, some healthy omega-6 and 3 from the fats and from the nuts. Or even yoghurt –yoghurt is something fast, something quick that they can eat at a later time. Just because it’s fast doesn’t mean it can’t be nutritious. Having both options on the go is going to be very important, and absolutely being prepared is going to be key.  

Melanie:  It is. And you know what? Kids feel like if you take that extra five minutes and you make them a bowl of fruit and you make them a little yoghurt parfait and throw some oats on top of that and mix it up a little bit, they really do feel well taken care of and then they actually start looking forward to that breakfast. When we’re feeding our kids these breakfasts, if we can get them to slow down long enough and eat some of them – give us some more of your best breakfast tips, things that we can do, maybe even prepping the night before to get them ready so that then it’s a much faster process in the morning. 

Marina:  You got to remember also, sometimes some kids might not be as hungry in the morning. A good strategy would be “let’s get dressed first” and then that will give them a little bit of more time to really get them hungry once they’re done dressing. At least we gain maybe five to 10 extra minutes. That way, again, they have a better breakfast and they feel they’re truly taken care of. Other simple ideas that I just really like to focus on would be types of breakfast, like you named it, the parfait that we could do with yoghurt the night before, either vanilla or plain because that way it’s going to have less sugar. Just putting a little bit of fresh fruit, either that same morning and a little granola or little nuts, that’s the perfect breakfast, three-star breakfast. Or even just doing a peanut butter and jelly on an English whole wheat muffin, we have that peanut butter which is going to be the protein and we’re going to get some of the whole grain bread which is going to last them throughout the day – again, three-star breakfast. If we have a little bit more time, then we can talk about maybe a quick and fast omelet or even like a burrito to go. Whole wheat tortilla, nice and hearty, a little egg scrambled with even some veggies in the morning, that way they got fiber and we’re starting the right way of breakfast and they could take it to go. They could even have it packed up with a little slice of fruit on the side, eat it on the way, eat it on the bus. Those are good tips.

Melanie:  How much fiber? Because as we’re talking about like the egg wraps, I love doing that for my kids, but then I find if I put chia seeds into their smoothies or too much oats, then they feel like they have to use the bathroom and then they don’t have time necessarily for that or they don’t want to do that at school. You know what I mean? So how much fiber in the morning should be kind of included with some of these foods? 

Marina:  I always like to recommend really choosing products that have at least two to three grams of dietary fiber. Just really make sure that it’s a high fiber product. Depending on the age range that a kid is, they could range anything from 10 grams of fiber up to 25 grams of fiber for the adolescent. I guess it’s going to be more individualized. So if you notice that really your kid’s very sensitive to like you said, if you have a more high fiber morning breakfast, then that is going to be a little bit more sensitive in the stomach, then I would rather wait until having those snacks or those dinners and late night snacks while they’re at home if that’s a better strategy for your kids. It really just depends on each person because I know that some kids might have fiber every single morning and that might not necessarily mean that they’re going to go to the bathroom every time, but it definitely makes them have a more balanced and more regular digestive system, that’s why we like fiber so much. 

Melanie:  What do you think about the situation where people drive through McDonald’s and get their kids an Egg McMuffin to go on their way to school? 

Marina:  Why not make an egg McMuffin at home? We’re probably going to save about 200 to 300 calories. And let’s talk about sodium. The sodium that you’re going to get at McDonald’s is going to be tripled than what you would get at home. Really, it’s all about habits. Can they do that once in a while? Yeah, maybe we can find a lower calorie, lower sodium, lower fat choice like a turkey McMuffin type of thing, which could be a better strategy. But, again, it really starts at home. If we really want our kids to succeed and be smart kids and reach their full potential, it’s really going to be on what habits are we getting them. Are we teaching them from home and that way they can truly go to school having not a rush breakfast but a nice, balanced and even fast breakfast?

Melanie:  That’s great advice. Thank you so much, Marina. You are listening to Eat Right Radio with our good friends from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, you can go to That’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening and stay well.