When it comes to breakfast, White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass is a Healthy Habits king. He credits Mom and Dad. "Growing up, there were a couple of hard-and-fast rules. One was that you always ate breakfast, always. It was nonnegotiable," says the Chicago native. In the Kass family kitchen, breakfast was usually hot or cold cereal and orange juice or a piece of fruit. "We never had sugary cereals. That has really informed how I eat breakfast now."
Kass says nothing has changed today, despite hyper-accelerated schedules. Breakfast needs to be a family moment—even if the family only has a few minutes. "If it's at all possible, sit down for seven minutes in the morning, and everybody have a bowl of cereal together. That helps shape kids' behavior—I'm a testament to that," Kass says.
"What we're trying to do is set our children up for success and make it easy to make good choices. Whatever you can do as a parent to help with that is key. It's good for you, and it's good for your kids to see you doing it."
SAM'S TOP 4 TIPS FOR A BETTER BREAKFAST
- Don't fall prey to wishful thinking about time. "You don't have to be cooking oats from scratch every day," Kass says. Instant oatmeal is nutritious. Cold cereal (with whole grain as the first ingredient) is also a fine option for the time-pressed.
- Build a weekday ritual. Find a breakfast or two you can repeat each day without a lot of thought, and you're more likely to stick to the routine. "I have a bowl of oatmeal and a banana almost every weekday. I add milk and sometimes a little honey or maple syrup," Kass says.
- Change it up on Saturday. Kass gets more creative on the weekends. He's a self-proclaimed "greens-with-breakfast guy," throwing a handful of spinach into an omelet or serving kale alongside scrambled eggs. "Saturday and Sunday breakfast is a great time to invite your kids to cook with you, too," Kass says. "Let them play around and experiment."
- Favor whole fruit. You're less likely to miss the sugar from a sticky bun when you include a piece of fruit, and there's more good stuff in whole fruit than juice. "It's easy to incorporate an apple, a banana, or an orange," Kass says. "In general, Americans are not consuming enough fruit."