Little Bites: Better Boxed Pancakes

My kids have been flying through batches of pancakes lately. It’s something they ask for every weekend, and I’ve been known to throw Sunday morning leftovers into their Monday lunch box or occasionally even make breakfast for dinner, which gets them so excited that I’ve started to use it as a negotiation tactic: “If you get a share your toys / cleanup the playroom / let me pee alone, we’ll do breakfast for dinner tonight!” I act as if it’s a reward for them, but instead it's a break for me: Is there anything more simple to cook than breakfast foods OR anything more satisfying than knowing your kids will happily eat what’s on the table?

But, since plain old pancakes don’t have much nutritional value, I’ve been working on simple ways to boost the good stuff to make them a health food. Think of pancake mix as a blank slate—and remember that pancake batter is a pretty forgiving food; you can experiment without seriously affecting the final product.

First, start with a whole wheat, multigrain, or buckwheat pancake mix—all contain more protein and fiber than plain mix. Then, pick and choose from the tips below to make ‘em healthier:

(Note, the values below are based off of 1 cup of dry mix)

  • To boost the protein, add in 2 tablespoons of nut butter or sunflower butter.

  • Give them a healthy dose of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids (important for brain development!) plus added protein and fiber by stirring in 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed.

  • Sub oil or butter for applesauce, fruit puree, or canned pumpkin puree (yes to a veggie at breakfast!)

  • Start the day with a veggie by adding 1/4 cup shredded zucchini or carrots.

  • Make the batter taste even better by adding spices and flavors: ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, or pure vanilla extract.

  • Mix in 1/2 cup frozen berries (don’t let them defrost or it will discolor the batter!), sliced bananas, or chopped apples or pears..

  • Use real maple syrup or a drizzle of honey in place of artificial syrup, which contains high fructose corn syrup. Plus, the real stuff is so sweet that you can use way, way less (1 tablespoon total is plenty).

  • Skip the syrup altogether and make a silly face using bananas, berries, apples--whatever! (You don't need a Pinterest degree to make it look good.)

  • Freeze the leftovers in between layers of parchment paper so you can pop out a pancake whenever you need.

Do you have a kid-friendly recipe that everyone loves? Email us!

Nicole Jurick is owner and founder of Peasful Kitchen, which offers cooking classes that cater to every stage of a family’s growth—from baby showers to baby and toddler food to inspiring family meals. For more cooking inspiration, follow Peasful Kitchen on Facebook and Instagram.