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Melanie Potock
BY Melanie Potock

4 Tips for Making Breakfast BETTER for Children with Special Needs

It’s back to school time and let’s face it: Mornings are hectic, especially for parents of children with special needs.  A healthy balanced breakfast may go by the wayside and we rely on quick, packaged options or skip breakfast altogether. However, numerous studies in children show that eating breakfast is associated with better behavior in the classroom. Even more show that eating breakfast more frequently is associated with higher test scores in subjects like Mathematics, Science and English. Doctor Yum and Coach Mel, co-authors of the award-winning book, Raising a Healthy Happy Eater, offer these 4 tips for making breakfast better!

1. Fruits and Veggies:

Make Breakfast Better

Get a jump start on the recommended daily allowance by including these in the first meal of the day! According to the CDC more than half of kids age 2-18 are not meeting the recommended daily intake of fruits or vegetables. And although fruit intake among kids is improving in recent years, vegetable intake is largely staying the same.  Fruits and vegetables provide much needed vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that help the brain and body function at its best.

Try a green dragon smoothie:

One of the most popular drinks in the Doctor Yum test kitchen.  It’s loaded with at least two servings of fruit and one serving of a vegetable, plus a bonus punch of fiber!

Chop Veggies:

Chop three cups of pea-sized bites of colorful peppers, carrots or other vegetables on Sunday and quickly sauté in coconut oil for one minute so they are still firm. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Throughout the week, add a handful as you scramble eggs, make muffins or even brown rice. Or try a super-egg-scramble, a recipe that includes quinoa for an extra boost of protein!

2. Make it Ahead!

Make Breakfast Better

Parent Proactively and plan breakfast the night before! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Slow Cooker Oatmeal: 

Try a version with steel cut oatmeal and apples!  Make it the night before and get the kids involved too! BONUS – You’ll wake up to the most incredible aroma in the morning! To spark the kids’ interest, store a few “additions” in small covered containers and set up a quick oatmeal bar so the kids can customize their own.  Try raisins, almonds or even a bit of nut butter to stir into the oatmeal for added protein and flavor!

Cookies and Muffins:

Bake and freeze! The most work you’ll need to do is pull a few out of the freezer the night before or pop some in the microwave for less than a minute before the kids sit down to breakfast.  Try nutrient rich Pumpkin Muffins or blueberry muffins that include flax meal and wheat germ and freeze oh so well!  

Magic Banana Cookies: 

Make by mixing the dry ingredients the night before – it’s super quick.  In the morning just mash in the bananas and vanilla and pop the cookies in the oven to bake while the kids are getting dressed.  They’re loaded with nutrition and if you’re really pressed for time, are easy to eat in the car too.

3. Cut Out the Sugar

Make Breakfast Better

A typical American breakfast is loaded with carbohydrates, many of which are simple sugars. A toaster waffle with syrup and a glass of orange juice can send insulin soaring and lead to hunger and sluggishness by mid-morning when many children are learning their more challenging academic subjects.  

It is recommended that the typical preschool to young elementary student should not exceed 3-4 added teaspoons of sugar per day, and for an older school aged child (up to the teen years) the limits is 5- 8 added teaspoons. But for many kids a typical breakfast can destroy these daily limits in just one meal!  Even granola bars, yogurt, and breakfast cereal can have as more sugar than what is recommended for an entire day for a child.

Try using fresh fruits like dates to add natural sweetness to breakfast or try a more savory breakfast with no added sugar like pumpkin energy bites.  Quick and filling – especially with a glass of milk.

4. Break out of the Cereal Box!

Make Breakfast Better

If breakfast is when your kids are hungriest, serve nourishing foods that resemble lunch. Leftovers can make a great breakfast.  One of our favorite lunchbox foods that’s also perfect for breakfast the next day is loaded with carrots and broccoli – yet kids love it! For the recipe for “Broc and Cara” treats and the other tasty recipes above, visit!

For tips on helping even the most hesitant eaters explore new foods, read this series from Coach Mel for Friendship Circle of Michigan. Be sure to visit their website for tips on how to raise adventurous eaters!


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Make Breakfast Better

Melanie Potock

Written on August 12, 2016 by:

Feeding specialist Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP and pediatrician Dr. Nimali Fernando are the co-authors of the award-winning book, Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating. Melanie in an international speaker, training OTs, RDs and SLPs in feeding therapy and offering parent presentations to the special needs community. Dr. Fernando (Dr. Yum) and Melanie (Coach Mel) joined forces to create the Doctor Yum Preschool Food Adventure as part of The Doctor Yum Project, a non-profit focused on helping families create a culture of wellness in their communities. Dr. Yum gives our more recipes than prescriptions - she's your pediatrician in the kitchen! Together, they created the website, the new go-to resource for parents who want to learn how to raise adventurous eaters, even if they have a child who is hesitant to try new foods. Their 5 hour video course, The Picky Eater Course, is specifically designed for both parents and professionals who want to truly understand how children become courageous, joyful eaters and learn to love healthy foods!