Cheri Burcham

The lazy days of summer are over and it’s time to get organized! A routine is the best strategy for a happy home. Making both breakfast and lunch (if you pack lunches) the night before is a lifesaver! Remember the MyPlate.gov concept - fruits and veggies cover half your plate! Extension Educator Mary Liz Wright shares this article she wrote about preparing those meals:

FACTS FOR FAMILIES: Setting your child up for success in school


Let’s move away from the traditional dry cereal (often sweetened) and white toast—although fortified with B vitamins, this classic breakfast does not have the sustaining power that whole grains and protein contain. A breakfast made mostly from refined carbohydrates will lead to a drop in energy midmorning. Make sure your breakfast includes protein, fruits and veggies and whole grains—add a glass of milk for calcium.

Try these ideas:

  • Leftover pizza is really not a bad breakfast—dairy, protein, grains
  • Overnight oats: place oats, fruit, nuts and milk in a bowl, set it in the fridge overnight and enjoy them in the morning—and they are not slimy like cooked oats!
  • Nothing wrong with a P B & J sandwich on whole grain bread—put fruit slices in the middle for some extra nutrition
  • Make scrambled egg “muffins” (whisk eggs and pour into greased muffin tins over cooked veggies and shredded cheese. Bake, then freeze—microwave for a quick breakfast)
  • Make a large batch of wholegrain pancakes or waffles on the weekend—freeze on a cookie sheet and then store in the freezer—microwave and enjoy topped with nut butter and fruit or yogurt
  • Grilled cheese with sliced apples or pears
  • Put smoothie ingredients into your blender cup/pitcher and store in the fridge overnight—blend and go in the morning
  • Smoothie bowls are a combo of overnight oats and unblended smoothies—cottage cheese, yogurt, fruit, nuts, grains—use your imagination!

All of these can be made in advance so your morning routine can flow like a well-oiled machine—easy, quick and nutritious!

Don’t forget the veggies!

  • Add leftover veggies to the make ahead egg “muffins”
  • Try peanut butter and carrot sticks as a grab and go
  • Sliced tomatoes go well with boiled eggs, either as a sandwich filling or on a plate
  • Poach eggs in salsa—add some spinach!
  • Add grated carrots to oatmeal, cook then season with classic pumpkin pie spice for a real treat in the morning!


I am a fan of school lunch—easy, cheap and thanks to the USDA very nutritious, but if you do pack your children’s or your own lunch keep these things in mind:

Keep reading for FREE!
Enjoy more articles by signing up or logging in. No credit card required.
  • Keep cold things cold and hot things hot (most schools/offices have microwaves so really, just keep things cold)
  • Make everything the night before, some people even make several sandwiches and freeze them—using the frozen food to keep things cool in the lunchbox
  • Try to include at least 3 food groups—this does NOT mean a sandwich, chips, and cookie!
  • Leftovers are great for lunch—just put them in small containers as you clear the evening meal and you are ready for the next day. Toss leftover vegetables in salad dressing. Add to lettuce to make a salad or use as a sandwich filling and pour a little orange juice on cut up fruit for a tasty dessert

Get creative with sandwiches

Variations on Peanut Butter

  • Mix two parts peanut butter and one part non-fat dry milk powder. Add honey or mashed bananas to taste. Serve with whole grain crackers or apple wedges.
  • Mix peanut butter and applesauce with a dash of cinnamon.
  • Add sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds to peanut butter.
  • Add dried fruit to peanut butter.
  • Spread quick breads such as banana bread, nut breads, or applesauce bread with peanut butter.
  • Add cheese slices to a peanut butter sandwich.

Cheese Plus

  • Grate or chop a mild cheese (low fat), add a little salad dressing and one or more of the following for a unique sandwich filling: pickle relish, chopped nuts, minced onion, chopped green pepper, cucumbers, celery, zucchini, tomato, chopped leftover grilled veggies
  • Mix cottage cheese or low-fat cream cheese with one or more of the following to make a sandwich spread: vegetable dip, or pocket bread filler like minced green onions, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, bacon bits, chopped green peppers

Don’t forget some “sides”:

  • Whole grain crackers
  • Cheese cubes
  • Fruit
  • Unconventional salad—chopped cabbage, fruit, nuts, light dressing sweetened with honey and fruit juice—use your imagination!
  • Homemade granola bars

I will share some of Mary Liz’s recipes in next week’s column!

For more information on family life-related topics, contact Cheri Burcham at University of Illinois Extension at 217-543-3755 or at cburcham@illinois.edu. For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at 217-345-7034. Also visit the Family Files Blog at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/eb380/


Load comments