With the setting in of the ‘back to school’ routine, I decided this will be a good time to write about the ‘power of breakfast’. In my interaction with children I have noticed that many are unable to eat a good breakfast before they leave for school. The reasons could vary from schools starting early in the north, to getting up late for the teens (when sleep becomes more important than meals!) or a fussy eater who just cannot manage to eat in the morning. I would like to use this occasion to reiterate the popular saying ‘eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper’ does exist for a good reason!
Breakfast and School Performance
If adults need to eat breakfast to perform well through the day, kids need it even more. Regular intake of food is a must for their growing bodies and brains! If children get into the habit of skipping breakfast, their body can get used to the “semi- starvation state” and they can go for long periods without food. This state can lead to many physical and behavioral problems and also affect school performance! Study after study confirms this simple but important fact- children who eat breakfast, perform better in school. They are able to pay more attention, have better short term memory retention, more energy to face the day and likely to have less absent days from school!
It is important to ‘break the fast’
Many teens (particularly girls) are under the impression that skipping a meal can help them lose the extra kilos and since breakfast can be easily sacrificed – often times it is this meal that they sacrifice. Actually skipping breakfast can lead to excessive eating at the next meal, indulging in high calorie snacks, leading to weigh gain than weight loss! Studies show that overweight and obese children are less likely to ‘break the fast’ than their thinner counterparts!
Meeting Nutrition Needs
For school going children it is a meal which is under the “mother’s control” till they come back from school after a long day and should be seen as an opportunity to feed them essential nutrients like calcium and protein. If children miss breakfast they may not meet their daily nutritional needs!
Tips to make kids eat breakfast!
- Wake them up early - – this may sound hard, till a routine establishes – most kids do not have an appetite as there is hardly any time between waking up and eating at the table. If children are up for an hour or so before breakfast time and do their morning chores, they may be ready to eat. In exceptional cases maybe a little exercise may help like walking the dog or a short walk with an adult in the house.
- Get their buy in — many kids don’t like to eat breakfast, so give them options the night before so they are mentally ready in the morning. For example — how would like your egg, what chutney you would like, what paratha etc. As they have exercised their choice they may feel more responsible to eat what’s on the table!
- Space the milk and the meal – make children drink their glass of milk as soon as they get up so there is less to eat at the breakfast table.
- Offer variety to make it interesting – breakfast probably gets less attention in terms of planning and detailing compared to dinner on a week day. Being the most important meal of the day offer children variety –in our country with so many options available this may be easy to implement ….aloo paratha or poha could easily offer variety in the south and idly /dosa in the north!
- Sit with your kid – plan your day better so you can spare the ten minutes to sit with your kid when she is eating breakfast – and also ensure adults at home eat breakfast! If adults skip breakfast, children will follow suit!
- Teen trouble – while the tips above may work easily with younger children –getting teens to eat a good breakfast may be tough – you could offer to make a wrap with veggies and cheese with left over chapattis, cheese toast on the go, a smoothie with nuts/dried fruits and say a banana are some options that you could try.
- Mid-morning snack – if all fails – ensure your child has a more filling mid-morning snack – a sandwich along with a banana or even the food that was cooked for breakfast – can be prepared and sent like “finger food”
- Working Mothers – Getting kids to eat breakfast and a healthy breakfast at that, can be unnerving for working mothers – a bit of planning, some preparation during the weekend (batter, homemade chutneys) and having the right products at home (whole wheat bread, peanut butter, cheese slices, fruits, nuts, a good breakfast cereal) can make the task easier!
Breakfast is indeed the king of meals – so give it the required attention!