Finding the time to feed your family a healthy breakfast can be challenging. But children require a nutritious breakfast – every day – to nourish their growing bodies and fuel them with the energy needed to handle the busy day ahead. Research shows that eating breakfast provides children with a number of benefits: better test scores, improved school attendance, an overall healthier diet, weight control, and lower cholesterol.

The good news is that preparing a breakfast that meets your child’s cholesterol-lowering guidelines can be easy and tasty. For basic breakfast fare, we’ve provided ideas that are low in saturated fat, trans fat-free, rich in soluble fiber, and low in added sugars.

Tips for a Healthy Breakfast

Milk

For children over 2 years, offer skim or 1% milk, or unsweetened calcium-fortified soy or almond milk.

Yogurt

Most yogurts are loaded with added sugar. To cut back on fat and sugar, choose nonfat plain yogurt and sweeten your child’s yogurt naturally with applesauce, fruit preserves, fresh fruit, or berries.

Toast

Suppress the urge to buy your child “white” bread. Instead, offer 100% whole wheat or sprouted grain bread, English muffins, tortillas or pita. If the color or texture of whole grain turns them off, try some of the new white whole-wheat varieties available.

Spreads

Instead of spreading butter over your child’s toast, opt for a soft tub spread that is trans fat free (contains no partially hydrogenated oil) and contains less than 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon. Or try natural nut butter like peanut or almond.

If your child is over 2, you can also try cholesterol-lowering spreads like Benecol, Promise Activ or Smart Balance Heartright – all contain plant stanols or sterols proven to lower cholesterol when consumed in recommended doses (approximately 2-3 servings daily).

Eggs

Eggs are an economical and healthy source of protein for your growing child. Egg yolks do contain a hefty dose of dietary cholesterol, but your child can safely consume one whole egg each day. If you prepare more than this amount, consider substituting whole eggs with liquid egg substitute or egg whites. One-quarter cup egg substitute or two egg whites are the equivalent to one large egg. Also try eggs containing heart-healthy omega-3 fat. Hens that lay these eggs have omega-3 in their feed, which produces an egg with slightly higher omega-3 content.

Cheese

Most processed or natural cheese is high in saturated fat, but cheese can often be an important source of calcium for your child. To help cut the saturated fat, choose cheese products labeled low-fat, reduced fat, made with 2% milk , or fat-free. You can also try a soy or rice-based cheese product which are low in saturated fat.

Sausage

Traditional breakfast sausage, whether it’s derived from beef, turkey or pork, all tend to be high in fat, containing up to a day’s worth of a child’s saturated fat quota in a single one-ounce serving. Look for sausages that are labeled low fat, extra lean, or 97% fat-free and contain less than 2 grams of saturated fat per serving. Or try some of the meatless breakfast patties or links available – they have the same flavor and texture as the real thing, but less saturated fat and zero cholesterol. Keep your child’s intake of sausage to a minimum because like all processed meats, they tend to be high in sodium.

Bacon

Ounce for ounce, turkey bacon contains less saturated fat than pork. Choose either pork or turkey bacon labeled low-fat or extra lean, or try Canadian bacon, which contains far less saturated fat. Keep your child’s intake to a minimum because bacon (like all processed meat) is high in sodium.

Cereal

Children love cereal, but most cereals don’t make the grade where nutrition is concerned. Ideally parents should offer cereal made with 100% whole grain ingredients and minimally added sugars. Read food labels and choose cereals that contain 3 or more grams of dietary fiber and less than 8 grams sugar per serving. You can slowly wean them from sugary cereals to more nutritious ones by mixing the two together, eventually adding more of the high-fiber cereal and less of the sugary one over time.

Oatmeal

Nothing starts a morning out on a good foot than a warm bowl of oats!Instead of feeding your child sugary instant packets, try buying Quick Cooking, Old Fashioned, Steel Cut or Irish oats.Then jazz up the oatmeal with a drizzle of agave nectar or honey, slivered almonds, fresh or dried fruit, and milk.

10 Breakfasts Under 10 Minutes

We know you’re too busy during the week to prepare extravagant breakfasts for your children. But that doesn’t mean that you have to compromise their health! We’ve got 10 tasty, heart-healthy breakfast ideas that take no more than 10 minutes to prepare. You can either grab-n-go or eat in a jiffy at home. You won’t miss a beat in your busy day; and your child won’t be missing any flavor.

Each of the breakfast ideas below incorporate at least three main food groups to ensure your child receives the necessary protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals he/she needs for good health.

Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits

Alternate layers of diced fresh fruit or berries with nonfat plain yogurt and low-fat granola. Kids love the way it looks in a parfait glass!

Banana Berry Smoothie

In a blender, mix together one small banana, 1 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries, ½ cup 100% orange juice, ¼ cup plain nonfat yogurt and a tablespoon of ground flaxseed or wheat germ. Pour into two 8-ounce glasses and enjoy!

Bagel fruit pizzas

Top ½ of a toasted whole-wheat bagel with 2 Tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt mixed with 2 tsp strawberry preserves. Top with ½ cup sliced strawberries and serve with a glass of 1% or nonfat milk.

PB and Raisin Roll-Up

Spread 1-2 Tbsp natural peanut butter over a 6-inch whole wheat tortilla. Sprinkle with raisins, chopped apple (or banana) and a drizzle of agave nectar and roll. Serve with a glass of calcium and vitamin D fortified orange juice.

Creamy Oatmeal

Measure a ½ cup dry serving of Old Fashioned oatmeal into a microwave-safe bowl. Pour enough water over the oatmeal to cover, and stir. Microwave on HIGH for 1 ½ to 2 minutes until done. Top with chopped walnuts, frozen berries, and a dollop of nonfat vanilla yogurt.

Trail Mix Delight

Package a 1/3-cup serving of homemade trail mix (mixture of favorite dried fruits, nuts and seeds) into a small snack bag. Give your child a container of low-fat or nonfat yogurt and let him or her stir the trail mix into it for a crunchy treat.

Egg and Cheese Sandwich

If you don’t have time to cook an egg or egg substitute over the stovetop, consider your microwave! Take one large omega-3 egg and whisk. Place in a microwave safe bowl and cook for approximately 45-55 seconds. Place cooked “scrambled eggs” on one slice of a whole wheat English muffin and top with a slice of 2% fat cheese. Top with remaining half of English muffin and serve with a bowl of fresh fruit.

Waffle Sandwich

Spread 1 Tbsp each natural almond butter and fruit preserves on two toasted whole grain frozen waffles and make a sandwich out of it. Serve with a glass of calcium and vitamin D fortified 100% orange juice.

Cereal a Go-Go

For a quick on-the-go meal, have single serving baggies filled with your child’s favorite low-sugar, high-fiber cereal (or a mixture of high fiber and not-so-healthy cereal). As you head out the door, grab the cereal bag, a banana from the countertop, a container of nonfat yogurt, and a spoon. Have your child eat each item separately, or mix the cereal into the yogurt if possible.

Eggs in a Pita

Heat a skillet over medium and spray with cooking spray. When hot, quickly saute a handful of bagged spinach and store bought diced tomatoes until spinach is wilted and tomatoes are warm. Pour ¼ cup egg substitute over the veggie mixture and top with 1 Tbsp 2% shredded cheese. Cover skillet until egg is cooked through and cheese melted (about 2 minutes). Place cooked egg onto the bottom half of a sliced 4-inch whole wheat pita and cover with the top. Head out the door with your pita sandwich and a glass of milk.

Bonus Breakfast Idea:

Make ahead tasty, high-fiber muffins and keep in the refrigerator or freezer. If you’re in a hurry, grab a muffin, a glass of milk, and a piece of fruit and head out the door. Toss berries or dried fruit into your muffins for added fiber, and spread with natural peanut butter for an added protein boost.

A healthy breakfast does not require a lot of time or energy. Take a few minutes each week before you grocery shop to stock up on healthy grab-n-go breakfasts and establish a lifetime of healthy eating for your child.

Reviewed:12/2013