breakfast importance to children

Among the three major meals in a day (breakfast, lunch and supper), breakfast is very important to all of us especially a child. Regular breakfast consumption is difficult in places such as Accra where to avoid traffic many families leave the house very early. After 7-10 hours sleep, breakfast is important to refuel the body. Children who eat breakfast regularly have the tendency to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities. Breakfast also can help keep children’s weight in check. Breakfast kick-starts the body's metabolism, the process by which the body converts the fuel in food to energy. During metabolism, the body starts burning calories. Also, people who don't eat breakfast often consume more calories throughout the day and are more likely to be overweight than those who rather skip lunch. That is because someone skipping breakfast is likely to get hungry before lunchtime and then may snack on high-calorie foods or overeat during lunch.

Skipping breakfast can lead to tiredness, restlessness or irritation among children. In the morning, their bodies need to refuel for the day ahead after going without food for 8 to 12 hours during sleep. Their mood and energy can drop by midmorning if they don't eat at least a small breakfast. Though it is important for children to have breakfast daily that does not mean any breakfast is appropriate. A good breakfast for a child which has enough proteins, fiber and grains but is low in added sugar may boost kids' attention span, concentration, and memory which they need to learn in school. Carbohydrates such as cereals, rice, bread and fruits are a good source of immediate energy for the body. Fiber helps provide a feeling of fullness and, therefore, discourages overeating. Fiber also helps move food through the digestive system, preventing constipation and lowering cholesterol. Proteins such as milk, meat, eggs and beans are important for the growth and repair of tissues of the child and all these food groups should be present in the child’s breakfast. Research also has shown that kids who eat breakfast tend to keep their weight under control, have lower blood cholesterol levels and fewer absences from school.

It can be difficult to make a healthy breakfast happen when the parent is rushing to get themselves and the children ready in the morning and juggling the general household chaos. These are some simple practical suggestions to ensure that even in a rush the children get a good breakfast before they leave the house. The kitchen should be stocked with some healthy breakfast options always. Parents should plan what to give their child for breakfast the next day so as to prepare the night before (eg getting dishes and utensils ready, cutting up fruit, etc.). Parents can also wake up even 10 minutes earlier so as to have some extra time to prepare breakfast for the children. If children aren't hungry first thing in the morning, they should be sent to school with some packed breakfast that they can eat a little later on in school.

Parents of children who eat breakfast outside the home should make it a point to educate the child on how to make healthy selections. What not to serve for breakfast is important too. Some breakfasts served children may have little nutritional value and just be high in sugar and calories. The corn dough used to prepare porridge can be fortified with soy powder to prepare nutritious ‘koko’ which can be served with some ‘koose’ or bread. When serving children bread, some groundnut paste can be spread in. Boiled rice, cooked beans, ‘waakye’, banku can all be served with vegetable stew and some source of protein such as meat, eggs or fish for a child. The habit of giving children sugar sweetened drinks or energy drinks, toffees and other high fat high sugar snacks is not the best practice. Children learn from parents so parents should set good examples by spending a few minutes having breakfast with their children.


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