Breakfast can be an especially challenging meal for families, especially for kids who are in school or need to get to daycare by a particular time. Kids can by cranky and time is rushed. Add in picky eating and you have a recipe for a very stressful morning. Coming up with breakfast ideas everyday can be a daunting task and often it becomes easier to just serve the same thing every morning (I get it, I’ve been there).
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Why Mealtime Variety is Important
If you grew up like me, maybe you had a bowl of cereal everyday for breakfast and you’re wondering why you even need to worry about variety at all. First off, for many families, eating the same thing everyday isn’t a problem. Some neurodivergent kids prefer to have the structure and predictability of a certain meal routine. If that’s your situation, you don’t need to change it up.
If your child only eats a limited number of foods, you run the risk of them tiring of these foods. Then, if they drop a food, you’re left with an even smaller list of foods to choose from. This can continue until you’re left with very few options (if you’re child is eating < 20 foods, you may benefit from working with a pediatric dietitian).
Variety also provides the opportunity for more nutrition. Each food provides different nutrients, so the more foods that are offered, the more nutrients offered. That being said, it’s also possible to get a nutritious diet from a limited number of foods, especially if your child likes foods that are generally well fortified.
Lastly, exposing your child to more variety exposes them to more foods in general and gives them more chances to try new foods. A child can never eat a food that isn’t offered. Just because you offer a food, however, doesn’t mean your child will eat it. I don’t recommend forcing kids to try foods, but exposing kids to new foods in a no-pressure way can help them get more comfortable with them. I also recommend always serving at least 1 food your child normally eats with every meal.
- Cold cereals: serve with full fat milk or yogurt to help keep kid satiated longer. Fruit has vitamin C and will help the iron that cereals are generally fortified with be absorbed better. Look for cereals with fiber to help with satiety as well.
- Oatmeal: whether you do the little packets or the big container of plain oatmeal, it’s a great option. I add in chia seeds and hemp hearts for added omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
- Overnight oats: this make ahead option can be great for families that are rushing out the door in the morning.
- Cream of wheat, grits, malt-o-meal: similar to oatmeal, but with a different texture. Texture can be a make or break for many picky eaters, especially those with sensory processing differences. If your child doesn’t like oatmeal, they may like one of the other cereals with a different texture.
- Chia pudding: not really a cereal, but very similar to overnight oats. This is a great breakfast for kids struggling with constipation.
- Toast: there are about as many options for toppings for toast as you can come up with. Look for ones with protein or fat, such as peanut butter or avocado, to help keep your child full. Adding in “sprinkles” like chia seeds can make them more fun while also adding in some nutrition.
- English muffins: add in some variety by serving English muffins instead of regular toast. You can use them to make an egg sandwich or just like toast with a smear of butter.
- Bagels: bagels get a bad reputation in the dieting community, but they are a great grab-and-go breakfast. Spread on some cream cheese to add in some fat and protein.
- Muffins: you can get store bought muffins, or make them yourself! I love making a big batch of muffins, storing them in the freezer, and then microwaving them in the morning for a quick breakfast. The Lean Green Bean has a ton of recipes with a lot of add-ins to make them a bit more filling, while also keeping them tasty.
- Croissants: light and flaky, these make a great breakfast option for kids who may not be super hungry. They may want to have something with the croissants (like a croissant sandwich or just a piece of cheese) to help keep them full.
- Pancakes: these are another option to make ahead and freeze and then just microwave on busy mornings. I generally just use the Kodiak Cake mix (affiliate link) that you can pick up at Costco. You just need to mix in water so it’s pretty easy.
- Waffles: we use toaster waffles during the week and make homemade waffles on the weekend. Some of the whole grain options have a decent amount of protein in them, but otherwise you can add toppings with protein to make them a bit more satiating. I keep hemp heart “sprinkles” around for this exact reason. They don’t add a lot of flavor but have a lot of protein in a small serving.
- French toast: this can be a bit time consuming during the week, but can be a great weekend option. I have done a French toast casserole that I just need to heat up in the morning and that works really well too.
- Crepes: another great weekend idea, these make a great base for picky eaters, because everyone can put whatever toppings/fillings they want in the crepe.
- Eggs: there are so many ways to cook eggs. If your picky eater doesn’t like one way, try another! It’s also totally fine to sprinkle some cheese or hot sauce on the eggs to make them more palatable.
- Egg burrito: everything tastes better in a tortilla! For kids who struggle with the texture of eggs, wrapping them in a tortilla with other fillings can help.
- Egg quesadilla: I used this as a way to get my child used to the flavor of eggs. We started with mostly cheese and a sprinkle of eggs and moved onto a higher ratio of eggs as he got used to them. You can also make a breakfast quesadilla with no eggs.
- Egg sandwich: while English muffins tend to be most popular, you can use any bread to make a little sandwich. This can help make the eggs a little more portable when you’re in a time crunch too.
- Egg in a hole: this dish has a bunch of different names, but basically you cut out a hole in your toast and fry and egg in it. The novelty of it can be fun for kids.
- Yogurt: full fat and Greek or Icelandic options will be more filling. You can add in toppings to make it more like a parfait.
- Yogurt popsicle: similar to yogurt, but this is done ahead of time and perfect for summer. You can add in any fruit your child prefers.
- Smoothie: one of the easiest ways to get a bunch of fruit (and veggies) in. I don’t recommend hiding veggies in the smoothie, but it’s totally fine to put them in there if your kid knows about them! It can help to serve something solid with smoothies to help kids feel more satiated.
- Breakfast cookies: there are a bunch of recipes for breakfast cookies. They’re very similar to muffins, but the fact that they’re cookies make them more exciting!
- Energy balls: another item you can make ahead of time and pull out to serve. These make great grab-and-go breakfasts.
- Granola bars: while most granola bars don’t provide enough energy to meet most kids’ needs, some kids aren’t that hungry for breakfast and something small like a granola bar works well. You can serve with a string cheese to provide a little more protein.
- Pop Tarts: if you don’t like the premade ones, there are recipes for homemade ones as well! Some brands have more fiber than others.
- Leftovers: you don’t need to limit yourself to “breakfast foods.” It’s totally fine to serve something else in your fridge!
Krystyn Parks is a Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant who specializes in feeding children. She has a Master’s Degree in Nutritional Science from California State University Long Beach. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and has been registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2013.