The Breakfast Club
Do you eat enough for breakfast to keep yourself from feeling hungry before lunch? Do your kids or teens eat breakfast? Do you wake up early enough to have breakfast? If you answered “no” to all these questions, at least you can console yourself that you are not alone.
Whether it’s because of the extra shut-eye, lack of appetite, habit or simply a lack of time, many parents as well as kids and teens skip breakfast even though they know it’s the most important meal of the day. In fact, this meal is even more important than our mothers told us. The scientific evidence for getting breakfast in is piling up like pancakes.
Some adults and teens skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight. That is one of the most common errors in any weight-loss diet. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can actually make weight control more difficult because people tend to eat more food than usual at the next meal or nibble on less healthy snacks to stave off hunger. Furthermore, some studies suggest that skipping meals is associated with greater odds of weight gain compared with those who regularly eat breakfast.
Breakfast is about more than weight. It’s also about arming young brains for learning. Studies have shown that breakfast can have a positive impact on academic performance. Experimental studies with healthy 9-to-11 year-olds have shown that those who skipped breakfast were more likely to make errors and have slower response and recall during tests.
But hold the Pop-Tarts for a moment. The type of breakfast food makes a difference. Sugary, low-fiber boxed cereal is not a great choice. Studies show that younger children had better memory and listening attention and girls exhibited better short-term memory after eating breakfasts that provided more sustained energy. Whole grains are a great source of such energy and that effect can be boosted with the addition of healthy protein like eggs to help keep that steady energy going.
Breakfast can mean more than just cereal, milk and couple of eggs. Try a breakfast frittata instead! Throw together some torn-up whole grain bread, blanched greens, a little cheese, and some herbs with beaten eggs and bake covered for 30 minutes at 180C. Portions can be reheated for breakfast over a couple of days.
Healthy breakfast muffins made of oats are great for those on the run in the mornings. Leftover whole grains can also be tossed with your choice of garlic or onions, nuts, herbs, vegetables (celery, tomatoes and peppers work well), legumes, dried fruits or olives. Dress with lemon juice or vinegar and olive oil, toss in some feta and you have a fantastic, nutritious morning meal.
If you absolutely can’t make time to prepare breakfast, try to avoid eating out. Instead, grab some pre-boiled eggs, nuts and fruits from home as they are also good options for “breakfast on the go.”
Got a question? Singaporean Olivia Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org) has a MSc in nutrition and provides private nutrition counseling.