We were recently on the Expresso morning show, and were asked to give our view on the importance of including breakfast for children. This is such a vital subject as it’s essential to for our youth’s development – shaping our future.
- Are the nutritional demands different for children as the demands for adults?
- Children are growing both physically and mentally and are generally more active than adults.
- Another thing to note is that glucose fuels the brain – and children use more glucose than adults.
- This means that their nutrition is more demanding and this makes it so important that they get all the carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals that they need in order to grow healthily and reach their full potential.
- Children are a vulnerable group and are at risk for under- and over nutrition – a good reason to focus on ensuring their correct nutrition.
2. Why is it so important that children eat breakfast everyday?
- In the mornings we wake up with low sugar levels as we’ve been fasting the whole night. Having a healthy breakfast will ensure that energy levels get a kick start in the morning and help to sustain them for the many activities throughout the day.
- This energy is needed for the many playing and sport activities enjoyed throughout the day.
- Including breakfast has also shown to improve:
- Children’s brain function
- Increased their attention span
- These factors are essential to learning during a long school day.
- We can take away that overall – including breakfast will improve school performance.
3. What are some of the side effects children will experience if they’re missing breakfast and going about a full school day?
- Physical side effects of being hungry, such as headaches, stomach pains will reduce the ability to concentrate in class.
- Skipping breakfast results in low sugar levels this can directly affects our brains because glucose fuels our brains. Having no fuel for their brains will affect the ability to focus, the child will lack energy and will also be affected by moods swings.
- Once you’re very hungry it’s more likely that you’ll make the wrong food choice – so if children skip breakfast – they’re most likely to eat something unhealthy later in the day.
- If children miss breakfast or make an unhealthy food choice – they’re also missing out on getting in the vital vitamins and minerals that they need in order to grow and perform well academically.
- It’s amazing what an impact including a breakfast especially a healthy one can have. It will directly affect your child’s performance at school which in turn can create bigger problems that may occur further down the line. If we think about it – better school performance will create better job opportunities, which leads to better housing situations and access to health care.
4. How would you go about choosing the right breakfast for kids?
- Try and include 2- 3 food groups:
- Carbohydrate (low GI, low sugar, high fibre) PLUS Dairy (unsweetened) PLUS Protein (lean/unprocessed)/Fat (healthy)
- Beware of hidden sugars! Check the label:
- Sugar: not more than 15 g/100g
- Fibre above 5 g per 100g
- Choose plain yoghurts rather than flavoured.
- Add fruit for sweetness rather than adding sugar or honey.
- Soak oats overnight and warm up in the mornings.
- Add colour and shapes for interest.
- Hide vegetables by adding to smoothies e.g. baby spinach
- Brain function and memory can be improved by including a fatty fish for the omega 3s.
- Try these delicious examples:
- Scrambled eggs on low GI toast with baby tomatoes
- Oats with milk: add banana and a tsp. of peanut butter or grated apple and cinnamon
- Smoothie: frozen banana/berries, plain yoghurt, baby spinach and nuts/seeds
- Boiled egg with mackerel on a whole-grain cracker
Munchwize Registered Dietitians are based in Claremont, Cape Town. For more information or breakfast options,