Most of us have heard that the most important meal of the day is breakfast. There is a reason for this: the morning meal — or breakfast — literally means “break” and “fast.”

It is the first food we have after we get up in the morning after hours of sleep and nothing to eat since the previous night’s evening meal. Breakfast indicates to our body that we are up and ready to start the day and need fuel.

But what makes for a healthy breakfast, especially during the time of COVID-19? What to do when we’re trying to get to work (either away or at home) and we have to get a healthy, quick breakfast on the table for everyone?

Nutrition curricula recommend a breakfast that has at least three of the five food groups and preferably four. The five food groups are protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables and grains.

For example, oatmeal with milk, raisins and nuts, with a glass of 100% juice fits the bill. This breakfast breakdown is as follows — oatmeal (grain), milk (dairy, preferably low-fat or fat free), raisins (fruit), nuts (protein) and juice (another fruit). Another breakfast favorite is borrowed from the after-school snack scene — the smoothie. If it made with fruit juice (not fruit drink), frozen fruit coupled with a slice of whole grain toast and peanut butter comes in at having three of the food groups; made with milk it tallies four of the five groups.

It is OK to think outside the box, too. Leftovers from the night before — lasagna, pizza, stew and soup can all be considered breakfast food. It is more important to eat something than to worry about whether it is what is considered a traditional breakfast food. It is also alright to serve the same thing more than one day in a row. No one ever died from eating a piece of peanut butter toast every day. Really.

If you are so inclined, making muffins, baked oatmeal and overnight oatmeal in the slow cooker or hard boiling some eggs the night before, will help get breakfast on the table even faster. It may go without saying, but including your child or children in the discussion of what they want for breakfast will make everyone’s morning a little easier. After all, if you spend time making baked oatmeal and no one will eat it, what have you gained?

As with snacks that contain sugars (simple carbohydrates) such as donuts, breakfast toaster pastries and presweetened cereals, this meal will give students a burst of energy, but by about 10 a.m. the sugar has been digested and broken down and is no longer an available source of energy, so the student begins to feel irritable and lacks concentration and energy. Studies have shown, too, that students who eat a nutritious breakfast have fewer behavior problems, do better in school and score better on tests.

But what if your child is not a breakfast eater? Or his or her body is ready for breakfast later than other people? No worries. If your child is doing in school learning, check with the teacher to see if he or she can eat a granola bar and some milk later in the morning, when they are ready — breakfast becomes snack time and perhaps other children will be in need of a pick-me-up at the same time.

Or, talk to the child about what he/she will eat. It doesn’t need to be a sit down at the table, three course meal. Even if the child just takes a covered mug filled with dry cereal and milk, that they can eat while waiting for the bus, or a piece of reheated pizza they can hold in their hand, it is something in their tummies.

For more information on healthy breakfast ideas, go to the OSU website, www.foodhero.org.

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Ann Bloom lives in Enterprise and has worked for the OSU Extension Service for 15 years as a nutrition educator. She studied journalism and education at Washington State University.

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