Quick breakfasts for the back-to-school students

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

Ok, everyone, out of the pool, it’s time for school. Kids and parents alike need to get ready for another year of reading, writing and healthy eating.

Every school season we review the importance of what a good breakfast can do to get your students off to the best start. It doesn’t matter if they’re 7 or 17, eating well is especially key for kids. So many studies have shown that breakfast kick-starts the metabolism and helps burn calories throughout the day. These studies have also linked eating breakfast to good health, including better memory and concentration, lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and lower chances of getting diabetes, heart disease, and being overweight.

The jury is still out, however, if breakfast causes these healthy habits or if people who eat it have healthier lifestyles. Does it really matter which? And these days, finding healthy ingredients gets easier and easier and can make the breakfast cereal aisle as empty as that pool from which you just embarked.

Grains such as oats, quinoa, flax and chia seeds (packed with vitamins and minerals and up to six times more calcium than a glass of milk) are the darlings of the healthy breakfast. They are almost as easy to add to your student’s breakfast bowl as opening a box of sugary cereal. From making a batch of crunchy sesame bars, to a hearty breakfast cookie, they earn an A+ in nutrition.

Breakfast cups filled with sausage, eggs and cheese are sure to please the parents and the pupils and a smoothie is the best morning refresher and restorer you can get in a glass. But don’t stop there, a bowl of oatmeal goes way beyond boring when you consider all the different add-ins, and finally, a cookie in the morning can make anyone smile.

The possibilities are endless if you just imagine all the great flavors we crave in the morning. Here are some of my best suggestions, they’ve come a long way from the Carnation Instant Breakfast that my mom whirled up for me most mornings. She meant well.

Kate Lawson is the retired Detroit News food writer


Crunchy Cashew-Sesame Bars

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.

1 1/2 cups cashews

8 tablespoons raw sesame seeds, divided

6 tablespoons flaxseed, divided

1/4 cup wheat bran

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Coat 8-by-8-inch baking pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray; line with parchment, leaving overhang on all sides.

Toast 1 1/2 cups cashews, 6 tablespoons raw sesame seeds, and 5 tablespoons flaxseed in separate areas on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350 degree oven, stirring occasionally (but not mixing), until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Let cool. Set aside 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon flaxseed.

Process cashews and remaining seeds with 1/4 cup wheat bran, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom in a food processor until mostly finely chopped. Place in a medium bowl.

Bring 1/2 cup pure maple syrup and 1 tablespoon coconut oil to a boil in a small saucepan; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Pour over cashew mixture and stir to coat. Press mixture firmly into prepared pan with wet hands (it will be sticky). Top with reserved seeds; press to adhere. Bake until golden brown, 25–30 minutes. Let cool, then cut into bars. Makes 12.

Per serving: 183 calories; 12 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 59 percent calories from fat); 17 g carbohydrates; 9 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 127 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Breakfast Cookies

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup cooked quinoa

1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or finely chopped nuts

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 medium very ripe banana, mashed

1/3 cup coconut or canola oil

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 whole large egg

1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (blueberries, mango, cherries)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process 3/4 cup of the oats to a flour. Transfer the oat flour to a large bowl. To the bowl, add the remaining oats, quinoa, coconut, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to blend.

In the food processor, combine the banana, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Add the egg to the processor and blend until slightly aerated, 1 full minute.

Scrape the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until the dough is evenly moistened. Fold in the dried fruit. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Using a standard ice cream scoop, drop 9 quarter cupfuls of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Use your fingertips to flatten each cookie to a 1/2-inch thickness — the cookies will not spread much during baking. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when their fragrance fills the kitchen, and the cookies are set enough that you can lift one off the sheet to make sure the bottom is a deep golden color, though the centers will still be soft.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Makes 9 cookies.

Per serving: 217 calories; 11 g fat (8 g saturated fat; 46 percent calories from fat); 29 g carbohydrates; 14 g sugar; 21 mg cholesterol; 289 mg sodium; 3 g protein; 3 g fiber.

Breakfast Cup

This is a good way to get the morning going. Just give yourself about an hour. They are filling and versatile. Recipe adapted from bhg.com.

Cooking spray

18 refrigerated biscuits (unbaked)

8 ounces breakfast sausage

7 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 cup mild shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 18 muffin cups with cooking spray.

Roll out biscuit dough on a lightly floured surface to form 5-inch rounds. Place each round in the prepared muffin cups, pressing into the base and sides to form a dough cup.

Cook and stir sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes; drain fat. Spoon sausage into dough cups.

Whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together in a bowl until well-beaten. Pour egg mixture into each dough cup, filling each just below the top of the biscuit dough. Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of egg mixture.

Bake in the preheated oven until eggs are set and biscuit dough is golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Makes 18 servings.

Per serving: 133 calories; 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 47 percent calories from fat); 10 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 86 mg cholesterol; 340 mg sodium; 7 g protein; 0.3 g fiber.

Zucchini Bread Oatmeal

You can make this the night before and quickly reheat in microwave for a few seconds. Recipe adapted from Oatandesame.com.

1/3 cup rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened almond milk or water

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup medium-grated zucchini (not to fine or it will be mush)

2 teaspoons chia seeds

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, to top

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar, to top

Drizzle of maple syrup, optional

In a small pot, add milk or water, cinnamon and oats. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat, stirring a few times, about 3 minutes.

Add in the chia seeds and grated zucchini. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes, until desired texture is reached.

When cooked, remove from heat and stir in vanilla and brown sugar. Top with chopped walnuts, sliced bananas and perhaps a drizzle of maple syrup. Serves 2.

Per serving: 294 calories; 14 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 43 percent calories from fat); 39 g carbohydrates; 22 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 84 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 7 g fiber.

Apple and Cheddar Tartine

Recipe adapted from Real Simple. Change up the cheese to havarti or gouda for a more grown-up flavor

1 small whole grain baguette (5 ounces), split lengthwise, then crosswise (or halve a whole pita or cut a square pita into 4 triangles)

2 tablespoons apple butter

1/2 apple, thinly sliced

2 ounces Cheddar, sliced

Heat broiler. Broil the baguette or pita until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes.

Dividing evenly, top with the apple butter, apple, and cheddar. Broil until the cheddar has melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Serves 2.

Per serving: 432 calories; 12 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 25 percent calories from fat); 70 g carbohydrates; 29 g sugar; 29 mg cholesterol; 616 mg sodium; 15 g protein; 6 g fiber.

Quick ideas


These are the all-time best quick-fix meal and are so super because you can add a variety of fruits and vegetables blended together to make a great, frothy breakfast or snack. Sneak in some spinach or kale along with blueberries and strawberries, add a splash of juice and vanilla yogurt and serve it up fast.


Savory or sweet, they come in a variety of sizes. Make with oats, chia, quinoa, yogurt. Sweeten with applesauce and honey, add some healthy nuts.

Yogurt parfaits

Assemble the night before with whole vanilla yogurt, layer with granola then fresh berries. Top with sliced banana before serving, if desired.

Healthy spreads

Choose from a variety of nut butters, they’re so easy to make and readily available in any market. Add a drizzle of honey and sliced banana or apple atop toasted whole grain bread. Or, mash up an avocado with lime juice, smear on hearty toast and add an optional poached egg.

Breakfast burritos

Scrambled eggs with diced ham or crumbled cooked sausage, veggies such as bell peppers, shredded zucchini and carrots and cooked cubed potatoes rolled into a whole grain flour tortilla or mounded into a whole wheat pita is the perfect hand-held breakfast sandwich.

Kate Lawson