The best breakfast foods for every age range

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

Each stage of life requires a focus on different nutrients, from calcium and iron in childhood to protein and omega 3 in the golden years. HuffPost interviewed four dietitians to find the ideal breakfast for every stage of life.

Little boy (2 to 6 years old)

Young children are notorious for being picky eaters and enjoy a limited rotation of familiar foods. This can cause some problems in the bathroom department, according to Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes, a registered dietitian and founder of 360 girls and women.

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

Registered Nutritionist Marissa Meshulam provided another solution for picky toddlers at breakfast: a snack plate. Cut an egg into bite-sized portions, slice toast into strips, spread on some avocado, and include some fruit for a balanced and varied breakfast.

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

School age (12 years and under)

Crucial for this period are calcium and vitamin D, and children may not be consuming adequate amounts that are essential for bone development and strong teeth, according to to several studies.

“MEIt’s important to build up calcium stores while a child is young, because once they get older, calcium absorption slows down,” said Anderson-Haynes.

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

Alexander Spatari via Getty Images

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

An easy way to make sure your little one gets enough calcium and vitamin D is with a smoothie. Combine fruit for carbohydrates and sweetness, nut butters, 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 strain some veggies (like frozen spinach or cauliflower) 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 soy milk provides 200 mg of calcium,” said Anderson-Haynes. “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 to get at least 300 mg of calcium.

Teenagers (13 to 17 years old)

Early starts and tight schedules can make it hard for teens to get enough fuel for their busy schedules. Eggs, sausages, bacon and toast could be the full and invigorating start that propels teens through the day, according to Meshulam.

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

“Iron becomes increasingly important for teenage girls starting menstruation, and protein is important for their growing muscles,” Meshulam said. “Bread provides them with fiber-filled carbohydrates for their various activities.” Add some 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. Swap out black beans, pinto beans, or chickpeas in a breakfast taco with a variety of toppings and flavors.

For example, 1 cup of cooked black beans provides about 5 mg of iron, about 30-40% of the iron needed by teenage girls and boys, respectively,” Anderson-Haynes said. “Eggs or plant-based eggs made with chickpeas also add some iron to this meal. The 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 find it difficult to eat anything for breakfast. And while not the most important meal of the day, finding some fuel is essential.

“Remembering the basic rule that ‘anything is better than nothing’ can help some people commit to eating a regular breakfast to keep their brain fueled and their body functioning,” said registered dietitian 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”:”\r\n (function(){\r\n var c = document.getElementById(‘taboola-endslate-thumbnails’);\r\n c.id += ‘-‘ + Math.round(Math.random()*1e16);\r\n \r\n var taboolaParams = {\r\n loader: \”//cdn.taboola.com/libtrc/aol-huffingtonpost/loader.js\”,\r\n mode: \”thumbnails-b\”,\r\n container: c.id,\r\n placement: \”Endslate Thumbnails\”,\r\n target_type: \”mix\”\r\n };\r\n \r\n if (typeof window.modulousQueue === \”function\”) {\r\n \twindow.modulousQueue.add(function(){ doTaboola(taboolaParams); });\r\n } else {\r\n \tdoTaboola(taboolaParams);\r\n }\r\n }());\r\n”}],”otherHtml”:”

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prescribed bars

The Healthy Snack Bars That Kids and Nutritionists Approve

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

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

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans found that most adults don’t get 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 R.registered dietitian nutritionist Kimberly Rose-Francis. With that in mind, options like a Greek yogurt parfait, cottage cheese toast with salmon, or a banana-walnut smoothie made with 2% milk might meet your calcium and vitamin D needs.

Middle Age (40 to 60 years)

You are probably not eating enough fiber, since more than 90% of American men and women do not reach your recommended dietary intakes. Rose-Francis said you can boost your breakfast with whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

“A veggie-loaded omelette, whole-grain pancakes and oatmeal are all fiber-filled breakfast options,” Rose-Francis said. Fiber is essential for healthy digestion, promoting good gut microbes and regularity.

Older adults (over 60 years old)

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

“Scrambled eggs and protein shakes that contain at least 16 grams of protein are good breakfast choices for seniors,” Rose-Francis said. “Protein-rich foods that are easy to chew can help preserve muscle mass and strength.” Since appetite decreases at this stage of life, making sure you eat enough is also vital.

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 eating Nuts and seedsY antioxidant-rich foods like berries, that have been shown to help prevent cognitive decline.

“Frozen berries are easy to keep on hand, and it’s a great routine to supplement a whole grain/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 contains brain-boosting omega-3 fats, vitamin D, selenium, iron, and marine-based antioxidants.

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

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