Important first meal

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Important first meal

Post by qaleq on Sun 08 Jun 2008, 7:28 pm

One of the best gifts that a mother can give her child is inculcating the habit of eating breakfast. This morning meal is essential for childrenís health and development, both in the short as well as long term. Letís take a quick look at the benefits of breakfast for kids.
As the first meal after a long overnight fast, breakfast replenishes your childís energy and nutrients so that he is able to start the day right. A good breakfast makes your child energetic, alert and attentive. Thus, he is ready to learn and participate in his school activities. Breakfast has also been found to improve mental performance in children. In a study, school administrators observed better behaviour, better school attendance and less discipline problems among the pupils who eat breakfast.
Furthermore, a well-balanced breakfast helps your child to fulfil about 30% of his energy and nutrient needs for the day. Eating breakfast is also a good habit that helps your child maintain a healthy bodyweight right into adulthood, which is important to avoid obesity-related diseases.
But are all breakfasts the same? And can any breakfast deliver the benefits that we have mentioned? To answer these questions, letís take a look at what a nutritious breakfast should be.
To replenish the body's energy, breakfast must contain energy-giving carbohydrates, preferably complex carbohydrates like whole grains, which is digested more slowly and releases energy in a sustained manner, compared to refined sugars. This will give the child a steady stream of energy for his activities. A good breakfast will also have protein for the childís growth, a little fat as well as vitamins and minerals. Fibre, especially the insoluble type, is a bonus as it comes with a host of health benefits like keeping your child full for a longer time, improving his digestive functions and keeping his bowel movements regular.
Now, letís take a look at some breakfast foods that are preferred by kids. From a nutritional study conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) on Malaysian primary school children, it was found that the preferred breakfast foods were nasi lemak, bread, fried rice and breakfast cereals. We shall discuss the nutritional contributions of these foods and if needed, find ways of making them better breakfast offerings.
Nasi lemak and fried rice are both energy-giving. The rice in these two dishes is a rich source of energy. Both can also be good protein providers if egg, chicken, meat or seafood is added. For nasi lemak, ikan bilis can also be added, as it is an excellent source of calcium. Nevertheless, nasi lemak and fried rice are typically high in fat and salt. These dishes also lack dietary fibre. Home-cooked nasi lemak can be made healthier by using diluted coconut milk or substituting it with low-fat milk. Ginger and onion can be added to give nasi lemak a better aroma. Try to reduce the amount of salt for seasoning and increase the dietary fibre by adding more vegetables like blanched kangkong or fresh cucumber. Similarly, reduce salt and oil in your fried rice and add more vegetables such as carrots, peas, corn or leafy greens. Serve these ,heavyĒ breakfast foods with a glass of plain water.
Bread is a quick-to-prepare breakfast item. Wholemeal bread is a good choice and depending on what you put between the slices, the resulting sandwich can be a nutritious meal on its own. For protein, think tuna, sardines, egg or cheese. Then, throw in some salad greens or tomato slices. Simpler sandwiches with kaya, jam or peanut butter can be accompanied with a glass of milk for protein and a piece of fruit for vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.
Breakfast cereal is another favourite with kids. Not all breakfast cereals are the same, though. Those made from whole grains are more nutritious. They have more dietary fibre and B vitamins, which are needed for energy production in the body. Whole grains, being complex carbohydrates, take a longer time to be digested and hence, make your child feel full longer, while supplying him with constant energy. This will prevent impulsive snacking or overeating. So, it is not surprising that children who breakfast on whole grain cereals are less likely to be overweight.
Breakfast cereals help to solve two breakfast problems Ė no appetite and no time to eat. Some whole grain cereals come in tempting chocolate flavours, which will surely whet children's appetite. Taken with warm milk or chilled yoghurt, they become a nutritious and balanced meal as they also come with many essential vitamins and minerals. For more variety, fresh fruits like apples, bananas or strawberries can be added. Dried fruits such as apricots, raisins and prunes are equally delicious and nutritious. Breakfast cereals are quick to prepare and easy to eat, so they save precious minutes in the morning rush.
Apart from these foods, kids can also take noodles, biscuits, capati, porridge, kuih-muih, cakes, pau or roti canai for breakfast. Variety is good. It helps to balance your childís diet besides stimulating appetite. Just follow these simple guidelines when putting together breakfast for your child Ė minimise fat, sugar and salt; maximise dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals while maintaining adequate complex carbohydrates and protein. This way, your child will be able to breakfast his way to good health and vitality!
Pelajar Cemerlang
Pelajar Cemerlang

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