Choosing the Right Breakfast Staples: Tips From a Registered Dietitian

As a busy mom of two school-aged children, I know how hectic weekday breakfast can be. There’s no time to make a full breakfast, so we turn to quick and easy options. Three of the easiest breakfast choices are cereal, frozen waffles and instant oatmeal, but how do you know which are the best to fuel up kids before heading off to school?

Here are tips on choosing the right breakfast items:


Hundreds of choices in the cereal aisle can make it challenging to choose the right one. Three key nutrients to pay attention to are fiber, salt and sugar.

  • Aim to get fiber from whole grains. Dietary fiber should be at least 3 grams per serving, if not more.
  • Limit Sodium: Some cereals can have around 200+ mg of sodium per serving. When you add milk that increases the sodium. Look for cereals that have no more than 250 mg sodium per serving.
  • Look for sugar on the ingredient list. It should never be listed first, or second. The closer towards the end of the ingredients list means the less of it is in the cereal. Look for cereal that has no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving.


No other food calls for quick & easy like frozen waffles. They are made to be dropped in a toaster, and ready within minutes. Bonus – you can wrap them in a paper towel and take them to go!

  • Aim for waffles that are no more than 250 calories per 2 waffles.
  • Choose whole-grain waffles with at least 3 grams or more of fiber.
  • Frozen waffles can be high in sodium. Choose those with no more than 275 mg sodium.
  • Go easy on the syrup. Try serving syrup on the side, or spread with your favorite nut butter for added protein. Offer sliced fruit such as bananas and berries for toppings.

Instant Oatmeal

Instant oatmeal is an all-time favorite in my house. The great thing about instant oatmeal is that those little packets contain the same disease-fighting whole grains as steel-cut oats, just in smaller cooking time. The bad part… it’s loaded with sugar. 

  • To avoid the sugar trap is to buy plain instant oatmeal or quick cooking oats and cook them on the stovetop or microwave and sweeten it with a swirl of honey.
  • Oatmeal can also be topped with banana slices, applesauce, peanut butter, raisin, or other dried fruit for a tasty breakfast.