Sunday, March 29, 2009


Managing kids to make them eat their food regularly is a challenging task for many mothers. Till the age of three, mothers have to do lot of coaxing,cajoling, and persuasion to feed their children. The problems after wards is making the kid eat the right food with balanced nutrition. If the meals in a day are divided into three portions, breakfast time, between 7 am and 10 am is most important because body's energy reserve is at its lowest. 12-14 hours gap between previous day's dinner and next day's breakfast can result in depletion of all nutrients, though the body is relatively inactive during sleeping, only basal metabolism taking place at the resting period. Logically, therefore, breakfast provides the required recharging to raise the level of body function sufficiently to meet the energy and nutrient needs for the physical as well as brain activities, at least till the lunch time.

A recent survey in the US has brought out a chilling reality that 22% of the school going children do not have enough time or inclination to eat their breakfast and are allowed to go to the school almost on an empty stomach 3 to 5 times a week. A further 20% skip their breakfast on 1 or 2 days in a week. What are the implications of such a situation on the health and attitudes of these children as they grow up? One of the serious consequences could be the ability of such children to focus on the learning with an energy level considered low by normal standards. According to some experts this is analogous to driving an automobile without fuel which can cause serious damage to the engine! How far such a claim can stand scientific scrutiny is another matter. But such children will consider taking break fast as redundant and get adjusted to a routine in life with no morning meal before starting the day. Probably this might be the basis on which many school breakfast programs are operating in many countries. But can this be taken as the gospel truth? Is there sufficient scientific evidence to say categorically that body does not have adequate reserve resources to meet the temporary contingency caused by missing the breakfast? Are the parents of such children guilty of abdicating their responsibility of giving them a decent future? Highly subsidized foods available in the school canteens could be one of the reasons for lulling the mothers to a sense of complacency.

Some stray findings here and there do indicate that breakfast is an important meal and as far as possible must be consumed before starting the day's work. It is believed that children regularly missing their breakfast invariably tend to become obese adults of tomorrow, the odds against them being 4-fold. There are also reports suggesting that those kids with irregular breakfast eating habit have less visuospatial memory and alertness compared to normal kids. They also tend score less in maths and perform below par in attention and memory tests; but their capacity for sustained attention in the class room is not affected adversely. A recent report even suggests that the reaction time of children who did not eat breakfast or who ate simple carbohydrate breakfast was almost same as that of a 70 year old person, which is indeed alarming. Thus not eating the breakfast and eating a 'bad' breakfast such as junk foods are undesirable practices deserving to be discouraged. Even if existing data on ill effects of not consuming breakfasts regularly, do not warrant raising an alarm, common sense and logic demand that kids must be discouraged from ignoring the first meal of the day for the simple reason that a hungry child will tend to over eat at lunch, that too preferring foods rich in calories and fat, certainly not good in the long run. Growing children must get their act together as far as eating habits are concerned to become healthy adults of tomorrow!


No comments: