Like a lot of parents, I tend to relax the rules over summer vacation. Breakfast sometimes consists of foods better classified as desserts — bowls of Trix so laden with artificial coloring they practically glow, chocolate-covered "granola bars" that contain no actual granola, and the masterfully marketed Pop Tart, which in no way qualifies as a legitimate breakfast food.

Research, however, shows that a healthy breakfast boosts a child's brain power, so once the school year starts, a nutritious morning meal is crucial. Fortunately, a healthy back-to-school breakfast is easy to prepare if you follow these 6 key tips for building a better one for your family.

1. Skip the Sugar

Sweet breakfast treats may have kid appeal, but they won't help in math class. A breakfast that is low in sugar, on the other hand, might. According to a 2007 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, students who consume a breakfast that is low on the glycemic index are likely to demonstrate improved cognition and learning.

2. Explore Whole Grains

Leave the processed white flour on the shelf, and opt instead for breads and cereals that are made with whole grains. Incorporate flax seeds, wheat germ, or old-fashioned oats into homemade muffins, granola bars, and waffles or experiment with hot breakfast cereals like Overnight, Slow Cooker, Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal.

3. Make Breakfast Egg-citing

Eggs are a high-quality source of protein, and they are excellent for boosting brain power as well. Try making scrambled egg burritos, egg "pizzas" on English muffins, or hard-boiled eggs for an easy grab-and-go meal.

4. Use a Better Butter

Replacing the butter on the breakfast table with a natural nut butter is a simple way to add protein and nutrients to your child's morning meal. Try pairing peanut butter with a whole-grain cinnamon raisin bagel, or topping a whole-grain waffle with almond butter and bananas.

5. Focus on Fruits and Veggies

Always keep bananas, berries, and other seasonal fruits on hand for a quick addition to cereal, yogurt, and smoothies. If you're feeling adventurous, try making the "Sneaky Green" Healthy Chocolate Shake, a kid-friendly green smoothie which masquerades as a chocolate milkshake.

6. Plan Ahead

The hectic nature of day-to-day family life won't always leave time to prepare the perfect breakfast, but if you plan ahead and make healthy meals a morning priority you'll be less likely to reach for the box of Pop Tarts.

At least until after the kids are out the door. Then the Pop Tarts are all yours.