The best breakfast foods to eat for every age group

Like most kids, I was obsessed with sugary cereals, especially the Cinnamon Toast Crunch. My mom rarely let me have it, but the cinnamon squares were my favorite morning meal, although the choice wasn’t ideal for a growing 7-year-old.

Each stage of life requires focusing on different nutrients, from calcium and iron in childhood to protein and omega 3s in the prime of life. HuffPost interviewed four dietitians to find the perfect breakfast for every stage of life.

Small Child (2 to 6 years old)

Toddlers are known to be picky eaters, enjoying a limited rotation of familiar foods. This can cause problems in the bathroom department, according to Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, registered dietitian and founder of 360Girls and Women.

“Paediatricians tend to see parents of children in this age group complaining more about constipation,” Anderson-Haynes told HuffPost. “In fact, constipation is the most common complaint of parents and affects approximately 30% of children (preschoolers and older children).” The solution? More fiber in fun and familiar foods, like waffles and fiber-rich fruits.

Registered Nutritionist Marissa Meshulam provided another solution for fussy little kids at breakfast ― a snack plate. Cut an egg into bite-size pieces, slice toast into strips, brush it with avocado and include fruit for a balanced and diverse breakfast.

“TThe egg and avocado provide healthy fats for their brain development, the fruit provides antioxidants, and the toast provides fiber and carbohydrates for energy,” Meshulam said. “The egg also contains vitamin D and iron, which are important for bone and muscle development.”

School age (12 and under)

Calcium and vitamin D are crucial during this time, and children may not be getting the adequate amounts that are essential for bone development and strong teeth, according to several studies.

“IIt’s important to build up calcium stores while the child is young because once you get older, calcium absorption decreases,” Anderson-Haynes said.

Alexandre Spatari via Getty Images

If you choose a milk alternative in your smoothie, cereal, or coffee, look for one fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

A smoothie is an easy way to make sure your little one is getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Combine fruit for carbs and sweetness, nut butter, seeds or nuts for fat and satiety , and yogurt or milk (vegetable or dairy) for protein and calcium, according to Anderson-Haynes and Meshulam.

“YYou can even sneak in some vegetables (like spinach or cauliflower in frozen rice) for extra nutrition they won’t taste,” Meshulam added.

If you choose an alternative milk, look for one fortified with calcium and vitamin D, as not all are created equal.

“A cup of milk or soymilk provides 200 mg of calcium,” Anderson-Haynes said. “That’s 20% of the recommended daily intake, which is 1,000 mg per day for children in this age group.” Look for a label that says fortified or check the Nutrition Facts panel for at least 300 mg of calcium.

Teenagers (13 to 17 years old)

Early departures and busy schedules can make it difficult for teens to have enough fuel for their busy schedules. According to Meshulam, eggs, sausages, bacon and toast could be the start of filling and nourishment that fuels teens through their day.

She suggests eggs and something like Applegate Organics Chicken and Apple Breakfast Sausage, which is organic and contains nothing artificial for a combination of protein and iron.

“Iron is becoming increasingly important for adolescent girls starting their periods, and protein is important for their muscle growth,” Meshulam said. “Bread provides them with fiber-rich carbohydrates for their various activities.” Add fruit for fiber and antioxidants.

Getting adequate amounts of iron is crucial at this stage for both boys and girls. Beans are an excellent source. Substitute black beans, pinto beans, or chickpeas for a breakfast taco with a range of toppings and flavors.

For example, 1 cup of cooked black beans provides approximately 5 mg of iron, about 30 to 40 percent of the iron needed by teenage girls and boys, respectively,” Anderson-Haynes said. “Eggs or plant-based chickpea eggs also add iron to this meal. Vitamin C in tomatoes helps absorb non-heme iron (vegetable iron).

Young adults (18 to 30 years old)

Alone for the first time, young adults often struggle to eat anything for breakfast. And while it’s not the most important meal of the day, finding fuel is essential.

“Remembering the rule of thumb that ‘anything is better than nothing’ can help some people commit to eating a regular breakfast to fuel their brains and bodies,” says dietician Barb Ruhs.


Get Rx Bars for $18.99 (10-pack). ","source":"","title":"Rx Bars","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null,"cta":[],"credit":"Rx Bars","creditUrl":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"61381d16410000eef5838a96.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"Rx Bars have 12 grams of protein per bar and are gluten-free. “Rx Bars are not only delicious, but they are nutritious as well," Rose-Francis told HuffPost. “They contain very few ingredients and are a great source of protein for growing children. Also, they are filling and contain zero grams of added sugar.” Frankeny is also a fan: “These get their sweetness from dates, and egg whites kick up the protein. I love the short and sweet ingredients list. They’re a soft, chewy snack that will keep kids energized.”

Get Rx Bars for $18.99 (10-pack).","credit":"Rx Bars","width":1640,"height":924,"ops":""},"textWrap":"noWrap","imagePositionInUnit":null,"imagePositionInSubUnit":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/613788e23b000085e1ee91ae.jpg","queryParams":{},"width":1500,"height":1500,"credit":"That's It"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"61378973e4b04778c00a6a42","caption":"These bars are free of wheat, tree nuts, and eggs, making them a great option for children with allergies. “That’s It Fruit Bars are a tasty combination of fruits. With zero grams of added sugar and made only of fruits, this snack bar is one sure way to get more fiber and vitamins into your child’s diet,” Rose-Francis said. “They’re an acceptable replacement for the traditional fruit-flavored roll-up snack that is laced with added sugars.”

Get That’s It Fruit Bars for $17.99 (12-pack).","source":"","title":"That's It Fruit Bars","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null,"cta":[],"credit":"That's It","creditUrl":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"613788e23b000085e1ee91ae.jpg","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"These bars are free of wheat, tree nuts, and eggs, making them a great option for children with allergies. “That’s It Fruit Bars are a tasty combination of fruits. With zero grams of added sugar and made only of fruits, this snack bar is one sure way to get more fiber and vitamins into your child’s diet,” Rose-Francis said. “They’re an acceptable replacement for the traditional fruit-flavored roll-up snack that is laced with added sugars.” 

Get That’s It Fruit Bars for $17.99 (12-pack).","credit":"That's It","width":1500,"height":1500,"ops":""},"textWrap":"noWrap","imagePositionInUnit":null,"imagePositionInSubUnit":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/61378930280000e70171f434.png","queryParams":{},"width":555,"height":305,"credit":"Kind"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"61378955e4b05f53edad52f7","caption":"“I like Kind bars because you can visually see good nutrition — nuts, dried fruit — and with a little bit of indulgence by drizzling caramel or chocolate," Ruhs said. "I’m not a huge chocolate fan living in Arizona, because they typically melt before I get a chance to eat them — and that’s messy. So, I choose bars that can hold up in the car or in a lunch box for several hours without becoming messy to eat.”

Get Kind Snack Minis for $22.79 (32-pack).","source":"","title":"Kind Snack Minis","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null,"cta":[],"credit":"Kind","creditUrl":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"61378930280000e70171f434.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"“I like Kind bars because you can visually see good nutrition — nuts, dried fruit — and with a little bit of indulgence by drizzling caramel or chocolate," Ruhs said. "I’m not a huge chocolate fan living in Arizona, because they typically melt before I get a chance to eat them — and that’s messy. So, I choose bars that can hold up in the car or in a lunch box for several hours without becoming messy to eat.”  

Get Kind Snack Minis for $22.79 (32-pack).","credit":"Kind","width":555,"height":305,"ops":""},"textWrap":"noWrap","imagePositionInUnit":null,"imagePositionInSubUnit":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/6137890f3b00006fc1ee91b0.png","queryParams":{},"width":3192,"height":2427,"credit":"Nature's Bakery"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"61378962e4b0eab0ad9e05f3","caption":"“These are a good nut-free option that also is gluten-free — a great allergy-friendly choice for kids because some schools have 'nut-free' policies,” Ruhs said. “These are slightly higher in calories and sugar (210 calories, 11g added sugar) and 3g of fiber. They’re chewy and delicious and come in other kid-friendly flavors — strawberry, blueberry, raspberry. They also sell other oat-based bars that don’t have gooey fruit filling if your child isn’t into that — texture is a big deal for some kids. Talk to them, ask them what they like about certain foods/bars and you might learn how to make easier choices by avoiding the things they don’t want (little seeds in their teeth) or things that they really like (things that taste like a brownie!).”

Get Nature’s Bakery Gluten-Free Fig Bars for $20.13 (24-pack).","source":"","title":"Nature’s Bakery Gluten-Free Fig Bars","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null,"cta":[],"credit":"Nature's Bakery","creditUrl":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"6137890f3b00006fc1ee91b0.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"“These are a good nut-free option that also is gluten-free — a great allergy-friendly choice for kids because some schools have 'nut-free' policies,” Ruhs said. “These are slightly higher in calories and sugar (210 calories, 11g added sugar) and 3g of fiber. They’re chewy and delicious and come in other kid-friendly flavors — strawberry, blueberry, raspberry. They also sell other oat-based bars that don’t have gooey fruit filling if your child isn’t into that — texture is a big deal for some kids. Talk to them, ask them what they like about certain foods/bars and you might learn how to make easier choices by avoiding the things they don’t want (little seeds in their teeth) or things that they really like (things that taste like a brownie!).”

Get Nature’s Bakery Gluten-Free Fig Bars for $20.13 (24-pack).","credit":"Nature's Bakery","width":3192,"height":2427,"ops":""},"textWrap":"noWrap","imagePositionInUnit":null,"imagePositionInSubUnit":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/613789044100000ae4838a2b.png","queryParams":{},"width":3001,"height":1651,"credit":"Bobo's"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"61378966e4b04778c00a6a00","caption":"“These bars are delicious, straightforward, and not overly sweet,” Frankeny said. “They can be eaten on the go, packed for lunch, or stowed in a gym and baby bag. I live in the city they were developed, so I’m totally biased.”

Get Bobo's Oat Bars for $29.88 (12-pack).","source":"","title":"Bobo's Oat Bars","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null,"cta":[],"credit":"Bobo's","creditUrl":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"613789044100000ae4838a2b.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"“These bars are delicious, straightforward, and not overly sweet,” Frankeny said. “They can be eaten on the go, packed for lunch, or stowed in a gym and baby bag. I live in the city they were developed, so I’m totally biased.”

Get Bobo's Oat Bars for $29.88 (12-pack).","credit":"Bobo's","width":3001,"height":1651,"ops":""},"textWrap":"noWrap","imagePositionInUnit":null,"imagePositionInSubUnit":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/6137893c280000461271f436.png","queryParams":{},"width":1350,"height":1350,"credit":"Skout"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"6137894fe4b05f53edad52e6","caption":"“These organic, plant-based protein bars are a great and nutritious kid snack,” Beckerman said. “They contain plant-based protein coming from peanut butter or sunflower seeds. These ingredients are great in a kids bar because they help deliver important nutrients like iron and calcium, which kids can tend to skew low in. The bars are the perfect amount of sweet thanks to the organic dates, helping to bump up the nutritional value of the bar with vitamins and minerals like calcium, folate and iron.”

Get Skout’s Organic Kids Snack Bars for $35.99 (36-pack).","source":"","title":"Skout Organic Bars","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null,"cta":[],"credit":"Skout","creditUrl":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"6137893c280000461271f436.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"“These organic, plant-based protein bars are a great and nutritious kid snack,” Beckerman said. “They contain plant-based protein coming from peanut butter or sunflower seeds. These ingredients are great in a kids bar because they help deliver important nutrients like iron and calcium, which kids can tend to skew low in. The bars are the perfect amount of sweet thanks to the organic dates, helping to bump up the nutritional value of the bar with vitamins and minerals like calcium, folate and iron.”

Get Skout’s Organic Kids Snack Bars for $35.99 (36-pack).","credit":"Skout","width":1350,"height":1350,"ops":""},"textWrap":"noWrap","imagePositionInUnit":null,"imagePositionInSubUnit":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/613788fd2600008ded5403fe.png","queryParams":{},"width":1600,"height":1600,"credit":"Blake's"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"6137896be4b0aac9c01c6832","caption":"“These allergy-friendly, whole food, seed-based treats combine indulgent flavors, like birthday cake and s’mores, with good-for-you ingredients like flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds,” Beckerman said. “The seeds are packed with zinc, iron, omega-3s and protein, which ticks off a ton of key nutritional boxes for parents and kids alike. Plus, all the products are free of the top eight allergens and are made in a certified nut-free and gluten-free facility, helping to ease the stress of parents who have kids with severe allergies.”

Get Blake’s Seed-Based Bars for $17.99 (18-pack).","source":"","title":"Blake's Seed-Based Bars","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null,"cta":[],"credit":"Blake's","creditUrl":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"613788fd2600008ded5403fe.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"“These allergy-friendly, whole food, seed-based treats combine indulgent flavors, like birthday cake and s’mores, with good-for-you ingredients like flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds,” Beckerman said. “The seeds are packed with zinc, iron, omega-3s and protein, which ticks off a ton of key nutritional boxes for parents and kids alike. Plus, all the products are free of the top eight allergens and are made in a certified nut-free and gluten-free facility, helping to ease the stress of parents who have kids with severe allergies.”

Get Blake’s Seed-Based Bars for $17.99 (18-pack).","credit":"Blake's","width":1600,"height":1600,"ops":""},"textWrap":"noWrap","imagePositionInUnit":null,"imagePositionInSubUnit":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/613788f5280000580171f430.png","queryParams":{},"width":3000,"height":3000,"credit":"This Saves Lives"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"6137896fe4b04778c00a6a2a","caption":"“I love that this has 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein in each bar and only 3 grams of added sugar,” Haas said. “Plus, with each package of product you buy, they send food to a child in need.”

Get This Saves Lives Beehive Jive Honey & Oat Bar for $5.99 (5-pack).","source":"","title":"This Saves Lives Beehive Jive Honey & Oat Bar","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null,"cta":[],"credit":"This Saves Lives","creditUrl":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"613788f5280000580171f430.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"“I love that this has 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein in each bar and only 3 grams of added sugar,” Haas said. “Plus, with each package of product you buy, they send food to a child in need.”

Get This Saves Lives Beehive Jive Honey & Oat Bar for $5.99 (5-pack).","credit":"This Saves Lives","width":3000,"height":3000,"ops":""},"textWrap":"noWrap","imagePositionInUnit":null,"imagePositionInSubUnit":null},"provider":null},{"embedData":{"type":"hector","url":"https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/61381cf2410000ade7838a94.png","queryParams":{},"width":1640,"height":924,"credit":"Perfect"},"type":"image","common":{"id":"61381cf3e4b0df9fe27c98d3","caption":"“These bars require refrigeration, but they get two thumbs up from kids AND parents when it comes to taste and staying power (thanks to 7 grams of protein in each bar),” Haas said.

Get Perfect Bars Kids for $5.39 (5-pack). ","source":"","title":"Perfect Bars Kids","type":"image","meta":null,"summary":null,"badge":null,"cta":[],"credit":"Perfect","creditUrl":"","thumbnail":{"url":{"fileName":"61381cf2410000ade7838a94.png","type":"hectorUrl"},"caption":"“These bars require refrigeration, but they get two thumbs up from kids AND parents when it comes to taste and staying power (thanks to 7 grams of protein in each bar),” Haas said.

Get Perfect Bars Kids for $5.39 (5-pack).","credit":"Perfect","width":1640,"height":924,"ops":""},"textWrap":"noWrap","imagePositionInUnit":null,"imagePositionInSubUnit":null},"provider":null}],"options":{"theme":"life","device":"desktop","editionInfo":{"id":"us","name":"U.S.","link":"https://www.huffpost.com","locale":"en_US"},"slideshowAd":{"scriptTags":[],"otherHtml":""},"slideshowEndCard":{"scriptTags":[{"attribs":{},"scriptBody":"rn (function(){rn var c = document.getElementById('taboola-endslate-thumbnails');rn c.id += '-' + Math.round(Math.random()*1e16);rn rn var taboolaParams = {rn loader: "//cdn.taboola.com/libtrc/aol-huffingtonpost/loader.js",rn mode: "thumbnails-b",rn container: c.id,rn placement: "Endslate Thumbnails",rn target_type: "mix"rn };rn rn if (typeof window.modulousQueue === "function") {rn twindow.modulousQueue.add(function(){ doTaboola(taboolaParams); });rn } else {rn tdoTaboola(taboolaParams);rn }rn }());rn"}],"otherHtml":"
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Rx bars

Healthy Snack Bars Kids and Nutritionists Approve

If time is an issue, try one of the many on-the-go options like granola bars, instant oatmeal cups Where frozen premade smoothies.

“If you wanted to focus more on nutrition, I would recommend at least two food groups: 1) whole grain bread (cereals) and fresh produce (avocado), 2) Greek yogurt (dairy) with fresh fruit (berries) or 3) a breakfast burrito (eggs and cereal),” Ruhs advised.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans found that most adults aren’t getting enough calcium and vitamin D, which isn’t just for building bones and teeth.

“Calcium is important for bone metabolism, nerve conduction and endocrine support, while vitamin D is important for calcium absorption,” said rRegistered Dietitian Nutritionist Kimberly Rose-Francis. With that in mind, options like Greek yogurt parfait, cottage cheese toast with salmon, or a banana pecan smoothie made with 2% milk could meet your calcium and vitamin D needs.

Middle Ages (40 to 60 years old)

You are probably not eating enough fiber because more than 90% of American men and women do not meet their recommended nutrient intakes. Rose-Francis says you can up your breakfast intake with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

“A loaded veggie omelet, whole grain pancakes and oatmeal are high-fiber breakfast options,” Rose-Francis says. Fiber is essential for healthy digestion, supporting good gut microbes and regularity.

Seniors (60 years and over)

Not just for gym bros, eating enough protein is essential at this stage to preserve muscle mass, which naturally deteriorates with age.

“Scrambled eggs and protein shakes with at least 16 grams of protein are good breakfast options for seniors,” Rose-Francis says. “Foods that are high in protein and easy to chew can help preserve strength and muscle mass.” Since appetite decreases at this stage of life, it is also essential to ensure that you are eating enough.

Boosting brain function may also be on your mind at this stage of life, which means you need to focus on getting your Omega 3 while eating nuts and seedsand antioxidant-rich products like berries, which have been shown to help prevent cognitive decline.

“Frozen berries are easy to keep on hand, and it’s a great routine to top a wholegrain cereal/oatmeal every day with a handful of brain-boosting berries to maintain memory and infuse the diet with powerful antioxidants,” Ruhs said.

She also suggests a tasty breakfast with salmon, which is packed with brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, selenium, iron and marine antioxidants.

“Choose land (farmed) salmon if you’re looking for a mercury-free salmon with all the amazing benefits of their wild-caught cousins,” Ruhs said.

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