Back-to-School Breakfast: Tips & Tools From a Registered Dietitian

child feeding his cereal to mom, breakfast ideas for school days
Photo by Ron Lach

“You asked for waffles; I made you waffles!”

“Stop playing in your cereal!”

“Don’t touch your brother’s toast; you have your own toast!”

Oh, the sounds of breakfast on a school day…the perfect storm of planned chaos and “we need to leave in 15 minutes.”

Breakfast bears the burden of starting the day off right. Moms want kids fueled for health and fun. The start of a new school year adds even more pressure.

As a full-time working mom, I get it. Most days my husband is responsible for getting our toddler fed, dressed, and dropped off. Despite my confidence in my husband’s parenting abilities, I worry about my son.

Did he eat a balanced meal?

Did I prep enough food for school?

Did Dad pack everything?

So how do we put our worries at ease? This Registered Dietitian mom is breaking down breakfast and giving you tips and resources for a smooth school year.

3 Tips for A Smooth Breakfast During the School Year

1. Look at the whole day.

Yes, breakfast is an important fueling opportunity for kids. It’s also not the only opportunity. I encourage parents to evaluate intake over the course of a day and week versus a single meal. Kids follow their hunger and fullness cues well. This may look erratic to adults but isn’t typically a cause for concern.

So how do you know if your child is eating “enough?” Keep an eye on their temperament, sleep, energy level, and bowels. Many things can impact appetite and intake; if your child is acting like their typical self, don’t stress.

As my mom always says: “Don’t make food an issue.”

2. Keep it simple.

Mornings can be chaotic even with the best laid plans. Pinterest-worthy breakfasts are admirable, but are they practical? Probably not on the daily. I encourage moms to keep the breakfast menu simple and realistic.

In my first post, I shared the formula for building a snack. There’s also a formula for meals to give you a mental sigh of relief and help mornings run smoothly:

Breakfast = carb + protein + fat

Simple, right? This can translate into many easy, healthy breakfasts for school days.

If your child only eats one food from their plate, that’s okay. Your job is to offer a meal that provides all three parts of the equation. If they eat and how much is up to your child. Keep total options minimal. Kids do well with two choices; more can be overwhelming.

Friendly reminder: Breakfast doesn’t have to be sweet. While breakfast foods have become a category of their own, any food can be breakfast. If your child wants pasta in the morning, go for it!toddler with cereal bowl

3. Share the load.

Yes, I’m encouraging you to let your kids into your kitchen…at breakfast. Kids take pride in performing tasks themselves and are more likely to eat food they help prepare—even more reason to keep things simple.

  • Toddlers and preschoolers can sprinkle and spread.
  • Young kids can cut and stir.
  • Older kids can cook for themselves and others.

Start with one task and help your child practice safely. Once they’ve mastered a skill, like peeling oranges, give them something new. The final product doesn’t need to be picture perfect, just edible. Over time, your child will have the skills and confidence to make a meal for themselves.

So, this all sounds simple. Don’t worry too much, plan some options, and let your kid help. Surely there’s more to it…right?

In short, things are rarely that simple. Preferences change, kids refuse options, and some days we’re just tired as moms. On the tough days, I utilize my resources to keep things moving forward. I call this my “parent toolbox.”

The Toolbox

My #1 tip for parents is to check out Kacie at Mama Knows Nutrition. Kacie is a colleague and mom who shares a wealth of knowledge, tips, and humor around nutrition and parenthood. She has navigated the challenges of a “picky eater” and offers a new course to help parents on the same journey.

One of my favorite tools are the breakfast cards. The free downloadable cards are a simple tool that gives kids autonomy with boundaries. You can customize the options and create choices that fit your family preferences.

Another favorite of mine is Ashley at Veggies and Virtue. Ashley’s Love It, Like It, Learning It® framework is a unique approach for increasing variety while maintaining intake. She also has meal cards in her shop that include pictures to take the stress out of planning.

Ashley’s Muffins Club can help you prep ahead for breakfast and share the load. She also shows you how to set-up a [snack] drawer in the fridge that can be customized for breakfast. Hint: Your kids can help stock it.

Put It All Together

So where to start?

First and foremost, look at the big picture. Fueling for school is about more than one meal. Have a few choices in place and work together as able.

More than what’s on the plate, sharing a meal is a valuable tool for the long game. Loosen expectations of what breakfast should be like and focus on what it can be like.

As my son gets older and more independent, I truly feel the saying “the days are long, but the years are short.” I remind myself that making memories together are what matters most. So don’t forget to have fun with your kids and start your day fueling with love and laughter.


  1. So I have a nine year old that is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs and fish and a 6 year old that I allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, banana, avocado and pumpkin. Any ideas for these two? Breakfast brings me so much anxiety. We typically do bacon or sausage w/fruit and toast. When I give them the same foods too often they request to eliminate them from their diet’s. I cannot afford to eliminate foods/food groups. Need to mix it up.

    • Hi Stacey! Off the top of my head- a tofu scramble (if soy isn’t an allergen) with hash browns and veggies, bean and cheese taco, breakfast sausage + homemade muffins, (waffles or pancakes made with an egg substitute (flax egg is as easy one), sunflower butter + jam/fresh fruit toast (or a “PB&J”), oatmeal with soy milk + fruit + sunflower seeds.

      This website is another favorite to pull recipes from: (this is the muffins page). She’s an RD and mom with some unique and simple recipe that can be modified.

      Veggies and Virtue has gone through food allergies with her son and was very open about the journey, struggles, solutions.

      If you want 1:1 support, I know Kacie Barnes @MamaKnowsNutrition now offers them.

      Hope this helps ignite some ideas!! Thank you for asking a question 🙂


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