The Importance of Breakfast for a Child
Let us take the scenario of a typical bustling household – Pandemic or no pandemic, the situation remains the same. The mom in the kitchen, finishing chores before she sits down/ or leaves for her work. The children need to be readied for school, lunch packed or ready, a quick breakfast on the table and all are then set for their routines.
But, let us stop here a moment, pause and reflect, did everyone in the home eat the first meal of the day well? Were they nourished? What did the children eat – be they school going children and teenagers or college going almost adults.
When we play that household morning rush hour film back again in slow motion… Oh! The realisation creeps up on us that Breakfast could have been better. Children in many households do not consume breakfast or they consume an inadequate breakfast. There are a myriad excuse turned reasons to look at:
School is too early
Can’t eat this early
No time to prepare breakfast
There is a break anyways at 9.30 /10 am
Hey! What’s the big deal…we never had breakfast when we are young!
Mom.. I am 14 years old.. Don’t need to eat breakfast, I will eat more later
So many reasons.
Before we go on to talk about how to put together a good breakfast, let’s look at five APPALLING yet completely changeable things that occur if our child has missed breakfast
A Growth Fuel Crisis:
Yes! Almost as severe as the Oil crisis in the world. The fuel that the child needs to function and to grow is glucose – the driver of metabolism and growth.
And in the event that breakfast is skipped, the body starts breaking down the muscles of the child to produce glucose. Scary isn’t it…at a time when we want tissue development to take place, we are looking at tissue breakdown.
Growth does not have a time slot to happen. It does not wait and say … “Ok. I will be patient till the nutrients come and then I will compensate.” No! If the fuel and nutrients are unavailable, growth lets it be – and the result is less growth than the genetic potential.
Is this what our kids deserve?
A Brain Function Crisis:
The brain craves for glucose and other nutrients and if it consistently does not get enough, it settles down and functions sub optimally – less alertness, less concentration, less mental productivity. Cognition requires its slice of nutrients and energy. As early hunger and fatigue sets in , it corresponds to a decline in cognitive functions.
This occurs both due to a decreased glucose as well as some nutrients that help the brain function optimally – A case point – iron. A good portion of whole wheat in the morning gives a nice slice of iron that gets the brain up and running.
Children who skip breakfast are seen to have higher behavioural issues in school. This could be attributed to the reduced glucose, the good fats and the vital vitamins and minerals. Similarly, frequent mood changes and depressive symptoms have been reported in children and adolescents who skip breakfast.
Research has consistently shown us that children who eat well in the morning are those who perform better at school…not just in academics but also in co-curricular and extracurricular activities. They report greater energy levels and better performance in sports.
Studies show links between school performance and missing meals specially breakfast. In this era of competition, we need to deliver good nutrition to help them combat tough competitions and excel.
Skipping Breakfast = Deleting a Large Chunk of Nutrients:
Breakfast is to be one of our larger meals of the day – one that gives us a large slice of nutrients for growth and productivity. Studies show that once this meal is poorly eaten or skipped, no matter how good our intentions, we are rarely able to compensate for the missed nutrients in the other meals. This is especially true for children as they cannot eat large meals at one go to make up for the skipped breakfast. Let us understand that the energy, protein, calcium, iron and a whole host of other nutrients that need to come in for the morning – the most productive part of the day will be lost if breakfast is missed. A huge concern!
Increased Risk for Onset of Diseases
(and an earlier risk at that): This one is a deep concern especially for the Indian population riding high towards metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart issues. Increased incidence of being overweight and obese, the starting of insulin resistance which later develops into diabetes is seen in Breakfast skippers.
Research proves that adolescents who ate breakfast could maintain optimum body weight for age. Skipping breakfast could lead to decreased stamina for physical activity thus leading to unwanted weight gain. Children who skipped breakfast could end up eating more. Skipping breakfast can cause appetite related issues and may result in the child/adolescent consuming more calories due to changes in appetite regulating hormones. Skipping breakfast has been shown to increase cardiac risk factors in adolescents.
Breakfast is actually BREAKING THE FAST of 10 hours. Let the nutrient starving cells of our children and adolescents, cells waiting to grow and metabolise and perform… let these cells be nourished by providing a good nourishing breakfast.
Let there be NO EXCUSES OR REASONS for compromising health.
As parents, let us pledge to ensure a good breakfast to our growing kids. And we pledge our support to help you ensure this. In the coming posts, we will discuss easy menu plans and ideas for making a healthy breakfast a reality.