Shake up the breakfast routine

By M.E. Malone
Globe Correspondent / September 2, 2009

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There’s lots of research to confirm what parents have been telling their children for decades: A healthy breakfast is key to a productive day. But if your youngsters are balky at breakfast time, don’t settle for bribing them with sugary cereals or other over-sweet foods.

If children can’t face eating food first thing in the morning, give them something healthy to drink. Make your own smoothie from ingredients that are not laced with sugar. Suzanne Rostler’s secret formula (don’t tell the kids the ingredients until after they have tasted it) is to blend a cup of vanilla soy milk with 5 ounces of firm, chilled silken tofu that’s been cut into cubes. Add 2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, 1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

If a bowl of cereal bores your youngster, offer handful-size portions of several items on a plate: cut-up fruit or berries, some nuts, small chunks of lean ham or chicken, or bite-size pieces of a grilled cheese or peanut butter sandwich. Skip the utensils.

Get kids involved in cooking; they’ll be more receptive to things they have made themselves. For many, that’s not possible on school-day mornings. But on weekends or school holidays, you might be able to make something new and spark an interest that will carry over into healthier weekday choices. Keep your own pancake mix on hand (see recipe on facing page) and add some blueberries when it’s time to make them. You can even refrigerate the pancakes, stacked with foil between the rounds, and reheat them in the morning.

Don’t be afraid of nontraditional breakfast items. Some kids just don’t like cereal or toast. Leftovers from a healthy dinner and sandwiches are good options. Try reheating last night’s pasta with Bolognese. Or use rice from dinner to make fried rice (see recipe), or sandwich bread with ham and cheese to make a Muenster Cristo (see recipe), which reheats well later.

If you have a slow cooker, let it make breakfast for the whole family. Simmer oatmeal or breakfast casseroles (ham, eggs, cheese, and shredded potatoes) while you sleep. Or assemble yogurt, fruit, and granola cups and keep them in the fridge to save minutes in the morning.

Don’t forget to eat breakfast yourself. Studies show that people of all ages who start the morning with healthy foods avoid overeating later in the day. Plus, you’ll never find yourself saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.’’