Yogurt parfait is in focus.
If you’re looking for fast, delicious and healthy for your kids, it’s hard to beat a yogurt parfait. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Parents have heard time and again that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

But on busy school mornings (yes, it is already that time of year), the reality is it also needs to be the fastest meal of the day.

Jessica Corwin, MPH, RDN, community nutrition educator for Spectrum Health Healthier Communities and parent of two young boys, knows the challenges.

Corwin said research continues to show that kids who eat a healthy breakfast perform better academically.

“They do better on everything when they have breakfast,” she said. “If you come to school starving, then your rumbling belly is going to be much louder than the teacher’s voice.”

When making breakfast—for you or your kids—Corwin encourages parents to aim for foods closer to their natural state and to try to get at least two different food groups into the meal.

“If your choices have protein, healthy fats and fiber, you will be well on your way to building a nutritious breakfast with staying power,” she said.

So how do you make sure your kids get a healthy breakfast and still make it out the door in time for school?

Here are Corwin’s top 5 breakfast ideas for kids:

1. Extra eggy toast

Kids usually can’t refuse anything that’s swimming in maple syrup. For French toast, Corwin suggests packing in the protein by using more eggs—one egg for every two slices of whole wheat bread. Add a splash of milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Top with maple syrup or fruit of your choice.

2. Trail mix mornings

For the mornings when you need something especially fast and easy, simply set out containers of almonds, raisins, dry cereal and dried fruit. Add in a glass of milk and your kids will have not only a nice balance of food groups, but also the fun of mixing their own breakfast.

3. Build-your-own yogurt parfait

Get out fancy sundae cups and your kids just might think it’s dessert for breakfast. Start with Greek yogurt (for the extra protein) on the bottom and add a layer of fruit of your choice. Add another layer of yogurt and top with granola or nuts for crunch (Corwin’s kids like cocoa-coated almonds). Here’s a great recipe for granola.

4. Peanut butter oatmeal

Cold winter mornings call for a hot start to the day—and Corwin’s peanut butter oatmeal won’t disappoint. Stir in a tablespoon or two of peanut butter into your already-cooked old-fashioned rolled oats, and add a splash of milk for the dairy serving and to cool it down for the kids.

5. No-bake breakfast cookies

Cookies for breakfast? With the right ingredients, sure. Corwin’s favorites include chia seeds and nuts for brain-boosting healthy fats, as well as peanut butter for as much protein as an egg. Add in honey, vanilla, whole grain cereal, oats, raisins and chocolate chips, and your kids won’t believe it’s even breakfast. These are a great option for older kids on the go as well. Here’s a recipe for one version.

When all else fails, Corwin said, remember that all kids should at least eat something before leaving for school.

“Even if all you have is leftover pizza, something is better than nothing,” she said.