This spring I took a huge risk.
I wanted my family to eat differently for breakfast–healthier, and more filling breakfasts (the teens were averaging $10 a day on school lunch items). But I was sabotaging myself.
I was asking the kids to eat differently–on their own, while I continued to buy the very thing that was keeping them from eating a healthy breakfast–cold cereal.
Now, It is not like I was buying them Sooper Frostie Goofy Puffs or anything. I was purchasing decent, often organic, whole grain cold cereals.
The problem is, a grain, even topped with some nice whole milk, does not a complete breakfast make.
I was offering eggs, and fruit, and even bacon–but the kids kept going back to the cereal. It was safe, it was quick, and, in the case of the little girls, half of it sat in the bottom of their bowls untouched.
So I waited until our cereal stash was used up. In a family of 8, that does NOT take long! Then, the very next Sunday, I bypassed the cereal aisle. I stocked up on eggs, and whole grain bread and sausage and bacon and bright, juicy, strawberries. I bought quarts of Greek Yogurt, and I baked up a batch of granola to top it. I baked some of the kids’ favorite whole grain and flax seed muffins.
Then, I woke up early on Monday morning, brewed my coffee and I sat in the kitchen and waited. One by one, my groggy kids shuffled into the kitchen and opened the pantry door. They dug around, muttered under their breath and dug some more. Then, one by one, they poked back out of the pantry and complained about the lack of cereal.
At this point I offered them a litany of breakfast options. None of them looked convinced, but grudgingly agreed to at least one or two items. By the end of the week I was happily frying up eggs, or making smoothies (making sure there was a good balance of fruit AND protein).
The kids (and my husband and I) were eating better. But this was not the biggest benefit I noticed.
What happened when I ditched the cereal was that breakfast time became an actual family meal time–much like our family dinners always have been. We were sitting around the table, slowing down a bit, actually TALKING to each other.
I know that this time in our kids’ lives are all too fleeting. I know that eventually our household of eight will whittle down to a blessedly quiet household of two.
I knew that I wanted to impress on my family the importance of a good, healthy breakfast (if it is the most important meal of the day, why do we outsource it so much?). What I did not anticipate was how much focusing on breakfast would improve our family life!
So, we still buy cereal sometimes. But now it is a “treat”, and not the norm. And improving breakfast added to my busy workload. What shocked me, though, is that it did not increase our grocery costs. As a matter of fact, the more I focus on real food, food that has been minimally processed, or, as my kids call it–shopping the outside of the store, our food costs have actually gone down.
I found that I actually eat breakfast if we eat as a family. I’ve never been much of a breakfast person (unless coffee counts!) But when I sit and eat with my family, I have far fewer cravings through the day. A good breakfast can carry me through lunch–and our kids’ lunch accounts have demonstrated the same.
Want to ditch the cereal and feed your family better breakfasts? Here is what worked for us:
- Cold Turkey For the first month or so, I had to just make sure the cereal was gone. If the kids found a box, that was what they wanted to have.
- Be Present If you are going to cut out cereal, you need to make sure you are actually in the kitchen to offer alternatives.
- Prepare Options Know going in what your family likes to eat and make sure that you have those choices available. My family enjoys all kinds of eggs, so that was easy. Brainstorm breakfast ideas together.
- Prep Ahead On Sundays I prep much of our dinner food for the week. I also like to try to take time to bake a batch of muffins or banana bread, or even make up freezer bags full of smoothie ingredients (then you can just dump and go!)
- Make it Fun! Play some fun music, set out pretty plates, do whatever it takes to make breakfast time a pleasant experience.
I’d love to hear how you make breakfast the best meal of the day. Leave a comment here or pop over to the Facebook page!