Nutrition: A Healthy Start (Article for Children…

After he got a scolding from the Math teacher for making careless mistakes in a class test, Junaid asked his friend Raheel with admiration and a bit of envy. “How are you so attentive in the first period at school? Although I have a good night’s sleep, I still feel lazy and am unable to concentrate on the lesson! I was so well prepared for the test, but my mind just doesn’t seem to work in the mornings. It sounds strange but I feel better after the lunch break.”

“What do you have for breakfast?” Raheel asked.

“Who has time to eat so early in the morning? I would rather sleep 10 more minutes instead of wasting them on the dining table! My mother packs the breakfast for me and I have it during the lunch recess.”

“Now I know what your problem is! After a gap of eight to 10 hours since your last meal, your body is starved for energy and so you cannot concentrate on your lessons. Just make it your routine to wake up earlier and have a healthy breakfast before you come to school. In a few days you will know the difference!” Raheel tried to convince his friend.

Like Junaid, most of you school-going children want to skip breakfast, not realising that a healthy morning meal plays a vital role in your physical and mental development as well as your ability to learn. In the morning, there is roughly an interval of 10 to 12 hours since the last meal and the body craves for food. But because you are still feeling sleepy, or are in a haste to reach school in time, some of you overlook your body’s requirements and convince mum that taking a snack for the school recess is a good alternative to breakfast.

Usually mothers are very particular about their school-going children’s sleeping hours. They realise the importance of a good night’s sleep for better performance at school. But sometimes they can overlook the importance of a good and balanced diet, especially breakfast. Making sleepy and grumpy children eat their morning meal may be tiresome and time consuming, but if this healthy habit is developed from an early stage of life, children actually learn to enjoy their breakfast.

Friends, you are going through a stage of life when both your mind and body are growing. Doctors and nutritionists strongly recommend a wholesome meal in the morning. A few more minutes of sleep is not worth skipping your breakfast for, as you must realise that the time spent having breakfast is much more beneficial than the extra sleep.

Your energy level is low in the morning and your brain and body need to be recharged so that you are efficient at whatever you do during the day. You need a nutritious meal after you get up, so that you are more active and attentive at school. You must understand that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and what you eat in the morning greatly influences your performance the whole day ahead. According to the American Dietetic Association, children who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom and on the playground, with better concentration, problem-solving skills and eye-hand coordination.

Many other studies have proven without doubt that children who have a wholesome meal in the morning perform better in their studies than their peers who skip breakfast. They are more attentive in class and can concentrate on the lessons in a better way. A cheerful disposition and good social behaviour is also linked to a healthy start of the day!

On the contrary children who come to school without eating a proper morning meal complain of laziness, lack of concentration and usually have an irritable disposition.

Some overweight adults and children have the wrong notion that they will lose their extra weight if they do not have breakfast. But they do not know that when our body is famished, we often tend to overeat when we take our next meal, or in between meals we munch on snacks like chips and cookies, which are high in calories (but of little nutritional value), and in this manner put on pounds instead of losing them.

The correct rule is to have a morning meal which will keep you healthy and not add to your obesity. Fresh fruits, cereals, boiled egg, bran bread and a glass of skimmed milk can be a perfect morning meal for a person who wants to lose weight. On the contrary, those of you who are underweight can have fried egg, whole wheat bread, butter, full cream milk, cheese and fruits.

Friends, ask your mother to suggest a breakfast menu which is rich in whole grains, fibre, carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins. Before you go to bed, decide what you want for breakfast in the morning so that your mother can prepare it without any hassle. For her convenience, you can also make a weekly menu and put it up on the refrigerator or any other prominent place in the kitchen. You have a vast choice of healthy foods ranging from seasonal fruits, cereals, whole wheat bread, eggs, honey and milk or milk products i.e. cheese, yoghurt, butter, etc. The nutrients your body gets from these will keep you alert, attentive and agile in school.

Avoid rich foods like cakes, pastries or paratha, halwa puri, etc., as these foods are high in calories but of little nutrient value and will only make you feel lazy, sleepy and dull, instead of giving your body the nutrients it requires to grow. Canned fruits or juices are not healthy as they have added preservatives and food colours, so avoid these too.

Give yourself a healthy start every morning! Not only will you get all the nutrients required for your growing body, developing brain and a normal and balanced weight, you will find a remarkable improvement in your performance at studies and sports and it will also make you a cheerful person who is popular among all!