I have a friend, Lisa, who is always cajoling her 13-year-old daughter, Maria, to have one healthy meal in a day. Maria’s constant refrain, however, is that she is never hungry. To make matters worse, she ignores breakfast completely. Some months ago, not only did Maria develop severe headaches, her performance in school showed a decline as well.
A key contribution
Skipping breakfast may be part of the problem. Most of us do not realise it but breakfast is an important contributor in making our faculties work at optimum levels. To function best, the human brain needs a constant supply of glucose (the type of sugar found in blood), because it cannot store any. This is unlike muscles which can store glucose.
After nine or more hours of not eating, our body reaches a fasting condition. Blood glucose levels are very low and need to be replenished. To keep up mental work requires a large turnover of brain glucose. If glucose levels are inadequate, the brain cannot perform well. A healthy breakfast helps to replenish blood glucose levels.
What a healthy breakfast does is help the working memory and verbal skills. Among children there is a greater possibility of an improved attitude towards school and less anxiety.
Skipping breakfast may be a reason for a child suffering from recurrent headaches. This could happen because of low blood sugar levels. And if a child is not getting enough fluids, dehydration, too, could cause headaches. So, on days when your child is rushed, even a glass of orange juice would be a good supplement.
If you skip breakfast, it is harder to meet your daily nutritional needs, as it gets difficult to pack in all the nutrients into the remaining two meals.
Calcium – the main mineral
This mineral is of particular importance, especially for growing children. For the kind of bone formation that occurs at this point, has lifetime implications for the child. Without adequate calcium, your child’s bones may not get the strength they require. This may translate into frequent broken bones or, in extreme cases, to osteoporosis. Women in India, especially pay a heavy price for their inadeqaute childhood diets by falling victim to brittle bones.
What is a healthy breakfast?
A well-balanced meal including grains, dairy products, protein, a little fat and some fruit would satisfy a growing child’s requirements. Biscuits and a glass of milk does not add up to a healthy breakfast.
On the flip side, you may tell your child not to stuff himself or herself if he or she isn’t hungry. And it’s also true that if you aren’t hungry in the morning, it is tough to eat anything. This is where you may have to figure out what works best for your child. Maybe your child could wake up earlier and exercise a bit. Any sort of activity can help stimulate morning hunger.