Today, I’m sharing my favorite healthy breakfast ideas to make instead of the 5 Worst Processed Breakfast Foods for Kids. Learn why they’re not good options and make wonderful homemade recipes so your kids can start the day the right way.
The Worst Breakfast Foods for Kids
You’ve heard it a million times before, breakfast is the most Important meal of the day. It’s not just a tired old cliché, it’s actually true. It puts an end to our overnight fast and helps us get the energy needed to start a busy day. While everyone can benefit from a good morning meal, it’s especially important to kids. A healthy breakfast means a better fuel for their bodies. It also helps their brains function and focus better throughout the day.
After a long night without any food, your kids’ bodies are desperately asking for nutrition in the morning. Without the proper fuel, kids will have very little energy. They’ll also be crankier and have a harder time learning and focusing on their schoolwork. This is why eating the right kind of foods at breakfast is important. A healthy breakfast will ideally have fiber, good carbs and protein.
An unhealthy breakfast high in refined sugars and artificial ingredients will make your kid’s metabolism slow down and encourage disease. It may even have a negative effect on their energy levels and their ability to learn. Numerous studies have shown that kids who eat a healthy breakfast have higher cognitive function and regularly perform better at school.
Unfortunately, some of the unhealthiest breakfast foods are marketed directly to kids
Think about it, those cutesy cartoon birds, bunnies, leprechauns, and tigers weren’t created to grab your attention. They’re trying to wiggle their way into your kids’ brains and get them to beg you for their sugary wares. Flashback to the 80s and remember what Nancy Reagan said…just say no.
Loaded with refined sugars, those unhealthy breakfast foods will give your kids a major rush. Like all fast things, though, the subsequent crash and burn will leave them tired, cranky and craving even more of the bad stuff throughout the day. If you really stop and think about it, those cartoon birds & bunnies have an awful lot in common with other types of pushers.
The good news is you can make your own healthy breakfast foods in minutes with only a few wholesome ingredients. Make a big batch, freeze and save for later. Give your kids real food and stay away from GMOs, artificial ingredients and flavors. Kids need good nutrition for their optimal development. We need to help them start the day the right way.
The 5 Worst Processed Breakfast Foods You Can Buy For Your Kids
So, which foods should you stay away from? Below, you’ll find the top 5 worst processed breakfast foods you can buy for your kids, along with healthier alternatives both from the store and your own pantry.
Just a quick note, this post does use affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase through them, your price stays the same but I get a small commission.
1. Microwave Pancakes
Sure, those pre-packaged “ready in 75 seconds” stacks are convenient and an American breakfast staple, but after you find out what’s in them, you’ll want to “Leggo” that Eggo real fast. I’m talking refined carbs, artificial ingredients, dangerous chemicals, and preservatives galore. Once you add in the fake syrup (here’s a hint, if it cost $2, it’s NOT real maple) you’re piling on high fructose corn syrup as well. What a disaster! FYI, the same goes for frozen waffles and French toast sticks. Below are two better options. Either will help you avoid the worst processed breakfast foods for kids!
If you don’t have time (or the know-how) to cook from scratch every morning, don’t fret. The grocery store freezer isn’t totally off limits, you just have to look a little deeper. Choose organic pancakes and waffles made with wholesome ingredients. Brands like Van’s, Nature’s Path Organic, and Kashi use whole grains and skip the artificial stuff. As for the sweetener, either splurge on real maple syrup of choose raw honey instead.
You can make your own pancakes like my recipes 2 Ingredient Sweet Potato Pancakes or Banana Pancakes. They are both ready in minutes using only 2 ingredients. Add fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, or a little honey or real maple syrup, and start your kid’s day the right way.
2. Sugary cereals
Remember what we talked about above? All the biggest offenders in the cereal world are geared towards kids. Popular brands like Froot Loops, Captain Crunch and Apple Jacks are 40 to 50% sugar by weight making them the same as eating candy. I don’t think any of us would hand our kids a fistful of candy bars for breakfast, right? Well, that’s what you’re doing when you pour them a bowl of these sugary cereals.
Along with buckets of sugar, these popular cereals are also loaded with chemicals, artificial junk, and GMOs. I mean, just look at that bowl of popular “fruit” cereal. Does it really look anything other than artificial? It doesn’t belong in your kids’ snack bag, let alone on the breakfast table. Want more information on this topic? please see my post 5 Processed Kids Snacks You Should Avoid.
Choose a cereal that has less than 5grams of sugar per serving and is made of 100% whole grains. Plain Cheerios have only 1 gram of sugar per serving and whole grain oats as the first ingredient. General Mills claims they are also non-gmo.
If Cheerios don’t excite your kids, read the ingredients label on other breakfast cereals. Here’s a tip: stay away from anything with a cartoon character on the box. The very first one should be “whole grains.” Period. If it says anything else, put it back on the shelf. Nutritionists ranked the best and worst cereals on grocery store shelves. Brands like Special K, Kashi, and Kind Healthy Grains topped their list.
Skip the bowl entirely and make any of these non-cereal breakfasts (like those delicious banana sushi rolls below) with only a few healthy ingredients. Adding quick oats is a smart way to include a healthy cereal in your kid’s breakfast. Another option is to make your own healthy overnight oats. You control all of the ingredients, so you’ll know exactly what’s in it.
3. Store-bought Muffins
Pretty much any muffin that you buy rather than make is going to be one of the worst breakfast foods you can feed your kids. The biggest offenders, though, are the ones that come in boxes & bags. They are usually loaded with trans-fat oils, tons of refined sugars and sodium. It’s like eating cake for breakfast.
I have some bad news: it’s hard to find a good healthy muffin on your grocery store shelves. Your best bet is to head to their bakery section (versus the snack food aisle). Choose whole-grain muffins with labels like “gluten-free” and stick with fruits or veggies vs “chip” varieties (chocolate chip, cinnamon chip, and so on).
How can you offer a healthier muffin? Make your own and add some fruits or veggies. Great for picky eaters too, since you can hide a lot of great stuff in a muffin and they won’t even taste it. My kids love homemade muffins. They are so easy to make, and you can experiment with different combinations. If you need some ideas, try my Healthy Zucchini Carrot Muffins or Super Healthy Banana Muffins. You can also make one of my kids’ favorites: Easy Breezy Super Healthy Breakfast Egg Muffins.
4. Granola/Breakfast Bars
Most of us already know that colorful cereal, microwave processed pancakes, and cake masquerading as muffins are among the worst breakfast foods. This next one, though, may be a bit of a surprise. Marketing and labels will fool you into thinking granola and other bars are a good option for breakfast, but the reality is most of them are just made with refined carbs, sugars and preservatives. In other words, they may be no better nutritionally than a candy bar.
Look for breakfast bars made with healthy fats such as nuts and seeds. I like KIND Bars because of their cleaner ingredients and good flavor combinations. I also absolutely love Larabar Fruit and Nut Bars and my kids’ favorite flavor is Cashew Cookie. Can you believe there are only 2 ingredients in these bars? Cashews and dates. Larabars are AWESOME!
Try making these Almond Bites. They’re made with only 3 ingredients and packed with nutrition to start your kid’s day full of energy. They are super easy to make and there is no need to bake them. One of my favorite recipes and a great alternative to the 5 Worst Processed Breakfast Foods For Kids.
5. Breakfast Pastries
It is so easy to just give your kid a Danish, a toaster tart, or even a croissant for breakfast. All of those are very unhealthy without having to further explain why. It is pretty obvious that these highly processed foods are not good options for your kid’s breakfast. They are all fat, empty calories, and sugar with absolutely no fiber or quality protein.
Choose 100% whole wheat, or Sprouted Grain Bread (my favorite kind) and make a Teddy Bear Toast. Both are a good source of fiber. You can add protein with the nut butter and more nutrition if you add fresh fruits.
Make your own 3 Ingredient Banana Bread Cookies. Made with quick oats, bananas and coconut oil. These cookies are also delicious and great for starting your kid’s day. If you really want the easiest breakfast cookies, you can also try my 2 Ingredient Banana Cookies. The easiest and healthiest cookie recipe you will ever find!
Avoiding the 5 worst breakfast foods for kids isn’t as hard as you might think! Just make real food instead and start the day full of energy and nutrition. If you’re too busy to prepare a homemade breakfast in the morning, most of my recipes are easily made ahead of time. Still too busy? Just stick to the healthier options from the grocery store. Please also see 7 Healthy Breakfast Ideas For Busy Families. Homemade food is really the best kind.
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Last update on 2022-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API