Why a nutritious breakfast matters

  • Family
  • Thursday, 25 May 2023

Making breakfast a family routine will encourage children to have their morning meal. — 123rf.com

HOW YOU start your morning determines the outcome of the whole day. A good morning routine can improve one’s discipline, hygiene, productivity and focus.

There are many good morning habits that should be cultivated in your kids. These include waking up early, making their beds, doing simple stretching and brushing their teeth. Having a nutritious breakfast is also one of the key components of a good morning habit.

Benefits of breakfast

Breakfast is not called the most important meal of the day without reason. A good breakfast replenishes energy levels after long hours of fasting during sleep. Since breakfast also contributes to our daily total nutrient intake, those who eat breakfast are also more likely to meet their daily recommended intakes of key nutrients like fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Breakfast also helps prevent overeating during the next meal and enhances our concentration and performance in the morning.

The important thing to remember is to make breakfast nutritious. You can help your children achieve this by emphasising balance, moderation and variety (BMV) when preparing breakfast. Remember to opt for whole grains which are more nutritious than refined grains. Also, don’t forget to include fruits and vegetables as well during breakfast to meet their recommended servings.

Have some protein too – milk, cheese and egg are great and versatile options – and you have a complete breakfast.

Easy and healthy

A nutritious breakfast isn’t hard to achieve. You can make nutty fruity oatmeal using rolled or quick oats with milk, topped with mixed nuts and fruits.

There’s also the simple and nutritious egg sandwich. Just use scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions and place them between two slices of wholegrain bread and you’re good to go.

If you have a bit of time, then the omelette fried rice is your quick-fix. Fry brown rice with egg, carrots and peas and you have a good meal on your plate.

A bowl of oats, plain yogurt, strawberry and blueberry is easy-to-make and great for breakfast. -- 123rf.comA bowl of oats, plain yogurt, strawberry and blueberry is easy-to-make and great for breakfast. -- 123rf.com

Quick breakfast tips

Mornings can be a rush for most families, so it pays to prepare breakfast earlier. Spend some time at night to prepare in advance to save time in the morning. For example, you can pre-cut fruits or pre-cook rolled oats.

You can also reuse leftovers. Dinner from last night can be reheated and repurposed for breakfast. For example, slice and reheat leftover grilled chicken and you can turn it into a grilled chicken sandwich.

Another way to encourage children to eat breakfast is by making it a family routine. Everyone should try to have breakfast together before going out for the day.

When everyone is in a rush, keep it simple by opting for ready-made, yet nutritious breakfast. A breakfast with two slices of whole grain bread and a glass of milk is better than nothing.

To cultivate healthy habits in your children, you have to start them young. This includes the habit of having breakfast. As with all changes, begin small. Make it gradual but remain consistent. Most importantly, as parents, you have to be the role model and practise what you preach.

Add more fruits and vegetables

The latest edition of the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines (MDG) was released recently with a significant change – vegetables and fruits now form the base of the Malaysian Food Pyramid 2020. How can parents ensure that their kids consume enough vegetables and fruits? Here are some ways:

Include vegetables and fruits as part of every meal or snack. Have one vegetable serving during every main meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and one fruit serving as snack (morning and afternoon) Vegetables can also be added to rice porridge, fried rice, noodle soup, curries and pancakes.

Keep vegetables and fruits ready. Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, bananas, apples are all great snack options. Cut and refrigerate them so they are ready to be eaten when kids open the fridge. You can also cut and arrange veggies and fruits in cute shapes. Just make sure to slice them into age-appropriate sizes to avoid choking.

Try out vegetarian recipes. Replace meat with mushrooms, beans, nuts and legumes is soups and curries.

Choose fresh fruits over fruit juices. Fresh fruits are richer in healthy dietary fibre and are more fulfilling.

Add vegetables and fruits to their favourite food. If they like breakfast cereals, add slices of banana or strawberries so they are more likely to eat them.

Be a role model. Kids are more likely to eat what their parents love to eat, so parents should consume more vegetables and fruits. Parents should also include children when choosing, preparing and cooking meals.

Include all types of vegetables and fruits. Your mix can include various fruits and vegetables in various colours, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, fruit vegetables like tomato, local ulam, frozen vegetables and dried fruits. With more choices, children will more likely find something they like. With these tips, getting your kids to eat more vegetables and fruits is no longer a hassle.

Serene Tung and Yasmin Ooi Beng Houi are nutritionists and members of the Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM). These stories also appear on Positive Parenting, an education initiative by the Malaysian Paediatric Association. For more articles and expert advice, check out mypositiveparenting.org

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