Looking for vegetarian breakfast ideas for your kids? Especially for vegan and vegetarian teens, it’s great to have plenty of healthy and tasty ideas ready. Having a plan can help you start your weekdays more smoothly. At back to school time especially, this is how it can go in our house:
“What do you want for breakfast?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you want _______?”
“How about __________?”
“Please look around and find something!”
You can imagine how much fun this conversation is first thing in the morning… not to mention before I have had coffee! Planning ahead of time can help you get organized. Then you can shop for whatever you need and get prepared for a pleasant and efficient morning.
Ask your teen or younger kids to write down several breakfast ideas they like. You can post a list, write out a weekly plan, or place them on 3 x 5 cards to have an easy stack of options.
Why Breakfast is Important
We know we feel better when we eat something before a busy day. This review by Adolphus et. al. in 2016 of 45 studies found positive effects of eating breakfast as compared to skipping it for the next 4 hours on memory, executive function, and cognition. Having breakfast is important to help kids learn and do well in school.
Nutrients to Watch
Vegetarian teens need to be sure to have enough calcium, essential fatty acids, vitamin B12, zinc, iron, vitamin D, and essential fatty acids (Amit, 2010). Protein needs are usually met if eating enough calories, but athletes may need to make more of an effort to have higher protein choices.
While most nutrients can be obtained from foods, the vitamin B-12 requirement is difficult to meet especially for vegans. You will find some in fortified cereals, plant milk alternatives, and nutritional yeast. However, to have enough reliably from these foods is difficult. And a deficiency can result in lasting neurological damage. It is best to discuss a supplement with your pediatrician.
Iron is not absorbed as well from plant sources as it is from meats. It is a very important mineral for teens due to their rapid growth, as well as menstruation for young women. The Recommended Daily Allowance for teens in the 14 – 18 year old group is 11 mg. for boys, and 15 mg. for girls. Vegetarians may need twice as much due to the lower absorption. but should not have more than 40 mg. per day.
Vegetarian teens can include a vitamin C rich food to enhance iron absorption from legumes and grains: so citrus fruits or even potatoes or bell peppers are good breakfast ideas. Try orange quarters, clementines, or berries. Chopped melon, mango, pineapple, or kiwis are great in smoothies. We just made some potatoes cooked with red peppers and onions, which are terrific on a cold morning and also provide vitamin C. Note that tea contains tannins, which decrease the absorption of non-heme iron in plants.
Choosing Nutrient Dense Foods
Nutrient-dense means a lot of nutrients for the calories. As you may know, American kids also tend to eat too much sugar, saturated fat, and caffeine. Popular energy drinks are another health concern for kids: read more in this link from the NIH. Choosing nutrient-dense ingredients can help young people have a healthy start to their day.
Nuts, nut butter, whole grains, and soy milk are great to include. Perhaps a bean burrito, apple with almond butter, or granola cereal would appeal to your teen? This vegetarian diet pyramid from Loma Linda University is a good planning tool. I recommend working with a registered dietitian nutritionist to help plan a healthy overall diet for a vegan or vegetarian child or teen.
Light Breakfast Ideas
If your teens like a light breakfast, try a healthy homemade muffin or bread with some plant-based milk and a piece of fruit: Here are some ideas:
- Fruit with nut butter: Cut apple, pear, or banana slices
- A smoothie: like the best chocolate banana smoothie or a berry smoothie.
- A yogurt parfait: start with plain or flavored plant-based yogurt and layer with sliced fruit and granola or cereal
- Cold cereal or oatmeal
- A whole-grain bagel
- Cereal bar or granola bar
- Cranberry orange oatmeal muffins (or you can make them blueberry, blackberry, or strawberry muffins)
- Amazing spiced carrot raisin muffins
- Banana bread with dark chocolate chunks
Enjoy these tasty vegetarian breakfast ideas that can work well on a busy morning if you have them made in advance: pancakes, waffles, French toast, scrambled tofu in a pita pocket, or a bean/tofu/veggie burrito. Here are some of my recipes for these:
Next, I have turned to my registered dietitian nutritionist colleagues for more creative ideas to share – yes, even a little more chocolate!
Vegetarian Breakfast Ideas from other Registered Dietitians
Açaí Bowl – This is a huge hit with Bonnie Nasar RDN‘s teens! Purée unsweetened açaí (found in freezer section of most health food stores) with a small amount of sweetener, banana, almond milk. Pour into a bowl & top with slivered almonds, shredded coconut, dark chocolate chips. Drizzle natural peanut butter on top. This takes less than 5 minutes to prep in the morning & the kids love it. You can also put it into a container for them to eat on the go.
Chocolate Quinoa – packed with protein for staying power is the perfect make-ahead meal. Swap the milk for light canned coconut milk for extra richness. Warm it up for a hot breakfast or eat right out of the fridge- both are yummy. Top with sliced bananas and almonds or get creative and add cocoa nibs or any variety of chopped nuts! – from Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD
Overnight Oat Parfaits – They can be made the night before by combining all ingredients in a jar, refrigerating, and enjoying in the morning! Rebecca Bitzer RD likes using non-fat Greek yogurt, a 1/4 cup of granola, and frozen berries that thaw overnight to add extra juice which naturally sweetens the yogurt. In addition, Leanne Ray MS, RDN provides a basic banana overnight oats recipe and some delicious flavor ideas including mocha latte!
Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Smoothie – What could be better for the fall? From Maggie Michalczyk MS, RD.
I hope these vegetarian breakfast ideas help you and your kids with a tasty and positive start to your days!
Amit M. Vegetarian diets in children and adolescents. Paediatr Child Health. 2010;15(5):303–314.
Adolphus, K., Lawton, C., Champ, C. and Dye, L. The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Advances in Nutrition, 2016; 7(3), pp.590S-612S.
Please let me know in the comments what ideas you have tried.
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Original post: 8/21/2019. Updated: 8/12/2020