The lazy days of summer have been replaced with the structure of school days. Meals are different too, with mad scrambles in the morning and packing lunches to bring to school. Make it easy on yourself with these ideas.

Most important meal

Breakfast is important for so many reasons. It revs your metabolism, stabilizes your blood sugar after too many hours of not eating and helps you avoid overeating later in the day.

Studies have even shown that those who eat breakfast are more likely to lose weight and maintain that weight loss than those who skip it.

But mornings in your household may resemble a circus, complete with clowns, elephants and those crazy people who walk the tightrope. Let's look at some strategies for fitting a healthy breakfast into a busy lifestyle.

Make It easy

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Fact box

Breakfast doesn't have to be pancakes from scratch, homemade sausages and berries harvested from your garden. If you have the time, great. If not, try these strategies:

Choose healthy cold cereals. Great brands include Kashi, Barbara's and Food for Life, as well as many others. Look for whole ingredients in the beginning of the ingredient list and a minimum of sugar. This is also an easy breakfast for the younger set to prepare for themselves.

Prepare ahead by making a big batch of steel-cut oats one day and heat up portions as you need them.

Cut up fresh fruit to add a nutritional boost to any meal.

Like smoothies? Fill your blender with the ingredients the night before (except for ice if using), then all you have to do is whip it up the next morning.

Have a favorite healthy muffin or pancake recipe? Make a batch, keeping a couple out and the rest in the freezer until you need them.

Think outside the (cereal) box

Who says breakfast has to be breakfast food? Feel free to enjoy the leftovers from a healthy dinner, be it vegetable soup, a black bean burrito, lean protein stir-fry, etc.

A recent "un-breakfast" I enjoyed was cooked quinoa and shredded veggies topped with sauteed tofu from the night before, drizzled with a little maple syrup. Maybe your "un-breakfast" is a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with lettuce and tomato.

As long as it's healthy, anything goes.

Think variety

Try some of these quick and easy ideas for your breakfast:

Frozen whole-grain waffles topped with low-fat yogurt and berries;

whole-grain toast spread with all-natural peanut butter and apple slices;

breakfast burrito of scrambled eggs mixed with chopped veggies;

smoothie made with 1 cup low-fat yogurt, ½ cup of your favorite fruit, 1 teaspoon ground flax seeds, 2 tablespoons wheat germ and ½ cup ice;

parfait made from nonfat Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of chopped walnuts.

Lunchtime ideas

Do you send your child off to school with what you feel is a healthy and appealing lunch, only to learn that it was traded for a Lunchables pizza and some cookies?

You are not alone. It's possible to get your children to eat better. One strategy for success is getting your kids involved. This adds work to your already busy day, but it more than pays for itself in the long run.

Let them pick out their own lunch. Help them by teaming up to make a list of lunches they'd like to bring to school. Lay down the ground rules that are important to you, like "must include a fruit that can't be traded" or "sugary desserts only twice per week," then let the brainstorming begin.

Here are some ideas that make sure the tastes kids love (cheese, salsa, pizza, burgers) are included in a healthy way:

black bean and cheese burritos with salsa on the side;

chicken and pesto wraps;

veggie kabobs with hummus;

"pizza" with whole wheat pita, sauce and fresh toppings;

turkey burger "sliders" on whole wheat rolls;

sliced raw vegetables with fresh salsa or hummus to dip;

chickpea pita pockets;

cheesy quesadillas with sliced peppers and onions;

grilled chicken fingers with organic BBQ sauce to dip.

Don't forget to pack their lunches in a cooler bag with an ice pack to keep everything cold.

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