Portable breakfasts match teens' busy lifestyle

Judy Hevrdejs / Chicago Tribune /


Getting teens to eat breakfast on school days will always be a challenge. It comes with the territory. Always has.

Teens are more independent. They’re busy juggling schoolwork and social lives. Who has time to bother with breakfast?

Sarah Berghoff McClure, for one. The 16-year-old from Chicago’s northern suburbs makes sure she eats a good breakfast; otherwise, “by second period, you’ll be starving.”

That means she can’t do what she sees some teens do. “Some have a cup of coffee, bring it to school, drink that and call it their breakfast,” she says. “You have to eat breakfast even if it’s just one egg and an apple on the go.”

Breakfast “depends on what we have in the house. But if we have waffles, I will cook those. Pancakes sometimes, if my mom is in a really good mood,” says Sarah, who follows a gluten-free diet. “What I do on my own is make eggs because eggs are quick, healthy and protein. Generally that’s not enough to fill me up so I have these protein shakes I make.”

Or she’ll scour the refrigerator. “I’ll be, like, OK, I have some bread. I’ll toast the bread, I’ll make an egg, I’ll put it on the bread. If I have some bean salad, I’ll put like one spoon of the bean salad on it or guacamole or salsa. It’s kind of like making a burrito. It’s a burrito on the go. That’s my favorite breakfast.”

Making breakfast portable helps. So beyond a fried egg sandwich eaten on the run, consider molletes, open-face sandwiches popular with students in Mexico. Or a fruit bread, such as a gluten-free version, spread with a nut butter or eaten with a fruit-and-yogurt smoothie.

Registered dietitians Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen, authors of “Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School” (Jossey-Bass, $16.95), offer recipes and guidelines for nourishing teens.

Among them:

Breakfast for a teen should include meat (or a nonmeat protein source), fat, fruit, grain and dairy (or nondairy alternative). It could be as simple as peanut butter on whole-grain toast with a banana and skim milk.

The accelerated growth of teens means they may consume more food and bigger portions. “Rather than worry about extra hunger, be prepared for it with quality food on hand and regular meals that satisfy your teen.”

Ten power foods for teens: Seeds, nuts, instant ready-to-eat fortified cereals, 100 percent orange juice, beans, low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk, dark green leafy vegetables, orange-colored fruits and vegetables (mango, carrots, etc.).

“Rather than fight against the foods teens love, find ways to modify them so that they remain tasty and pack more nutrients,” for example, by subbing low-fat cheese for full-fat versions on pizza.