6 Breakfast Rules A Cookbook Author & Busy Mom Of 3 Swears By

You glance at the clock, and you have 10 minutes. Somehow, you have to produce multiple food groups for multiple kids with little time left before buses show up and carpool starts. Now what?

Amy Palanjian, cookbook author and mom of a 12-, 7-, and 5-year-old, has totally been there. Palanjian, a former editor and current food guru behind the site Yummy Toddler Food, started getting serious about how kids are fed when her own daughter was 1. She realized at that time there were few resources for feeding younger kids — and the advice in older kid cookbooks wasn’t going to work.

“A lot of the recipes in there were essentially choking hazards because they were meant for elementary kids, or they had more added sugar than I wanted for a 14-month-old,” she says. “People needed reassurance, and they weren’t getting it anywhere. There are a lot of misconceptions about ‘picky eating’ — and most parents don’t know what’s normal for that stage.”

Palanjian looks to make accessible recipes for parents who literally “have five other things going on” at the same time. With that said, here are the breakfast hacks and tips she wants parents everywhere to know… especially if you are worried about reluctant eaters first thing in the morning. And as a mom of five, I co-sign!

1. Take those shortcuts.

Now’s not the time to be making every single ingredient from scratch. When Palanjian writes recipes for parents, as opposed to what she used to write for adults who got to cook alone, she says, “You can put a bag of frozen onions from the store in your freezer, and then you can just dump it in.”

She’s also not a fan of complex recipes or niche ingredients that most parents can’t find at a local store. After all, when she was developing her book, she lived in a small Iowa town where Walmart and Fairway were the choices. Parents making food for little kids can keep it simple.

2. Go for big taste without all the sugar.

Palanjian knows that “nutritious ingredients” never convinced a kid to eat anything. So, she recommends parents go for what “tastes really good.” For example, her Sweet Spinach Muffins taste like anything but spinach and can be packaged for kids as “Hulk muffins.” The sweetness comes from honey or maple syrup (not sugar) and mini chocolate chips on top. “I am flavor-first,” she says.

It’s OK to let your kids eat sugary cereals sometimes if they love it, she says. “As soon as you pair any cereal with milk, you’re adding protein. If you use whole milk or low-fat milk, you’re adding fat. That’s going to balance whatever the cereal is.” She recommends adding something rather than taking away. So, if your little kiddo adds a smoothie to that, breakfast gets a bit more nutritious.

3. Make breakfast more grab-and-go for reluctant eaters.

You might have a kid who just isn’t hungry first thing in the morning, but school or daycare isn’t going to change their times for your kid’s preferred schedule, are they? For this reason, Palanjian says that she’s always kept things on hand that are “really fast” and can just be assembled, not prepared. Some options include:

  • Yogurt, fruit, and granola
  • Cereal of their choice plus milk
  • Muffins
  • Leftover dinner for breakfast

“My son will happily eat a turkey sandwich for breakfast, pasta with pesto sauce or peas, beans, rice, and burritos,” she says.

4. Pass the job to them.

Kids are more interested in food they’ve had a part in preparing in some way. Her 9-year-old eats the same breakfast every day, which she can prepare herself. While toddlers might not be scrambling eggs on their own, you can make a grab-and-go shelf or specific section of the fridge to help them feel they have a say in their food options. And keep in mind that, just like adults, they don’t have to like everything, so giving them choice and say matters.

5. Get some fun supplies.

You don’t need fancy plates, silverware, or other items to feed a toddler. But a little fun can help. For example, instead of presenting a toddler with a big bowl of oatmeal, try a fun-shaped muffin tin or cookie cutter such as Palanjian uses in her heart-shaped Baked Oatmeal Cups. It also makes for a great snack to eat in the car on the run versus a messy bowl of oatmeal.

Other supplies she loves include:

6. Zoom out from breakfast to the whole-week view.

It’s not what your little one does or doesn’t eat for breakfast one day that will make or break their nutritional input. She sees parents stressing about kids getting enough vegetables and protein, in particular.

Instead of stressing about getting some exorbitant amount of protein into your kid, she hopes parents can “zoom out” and look at what they are eating over a week or two, not “worrying about every bite.” Remember, your child might chow down at dinner and not even really want breakfast — after all, what little kid has always followed reason or logic?

Finally, before you check out Palanjian’s beautiful Instagram along with her other 1.2 million followers, she warns: “Remember, the things you see on Instagram, that’s my job — I am trying to make the food look appealing … Don’t think that you need to feel any pressure to make food look a certain way.”

After all, she has a prop closet of cool stuff, and we just have angry little tyrants beating down pantry doors, screaming for more Goldfish for breakfast.

BONUS: An Easy Breakfast Idea

In her new cookbook, Dinnertime SOS, Palanjian has just the solution — sheet chocolate chip pancakes, or “square pancakes,” as her kids call them. You can make them the night before and pop them in the microwave in the morning. Oh, and they basically taste like cake!

Amy Palanjian
Amy Palanjian

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