Changing Your Kids Eating Habits with the Most Important Meal of the Day
For as long as any of us can remember our parents have badgered us with stories, euphemisms, and blatant fear tactics that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day”. Why the desperate measures to engrain the most essential tool in our kid’s development? In 1917, an American dietitian by the name of Lenna Cooper wrote an article in Good Health Magazine that said, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. This magazine was run and operated by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the nutritionist inventor who brought us Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Kellogg had some controversial opinions about nutrition and his magazine at the time was routinely suggested that’s its purpose was to continuously glorify his nutritional inventions. Still, this tag line has stood the test of time and Cooper’s findings are as true today as they were 103 years ago.
We all know it’s a balance between talking to kids about healthy eating habits and highlighting the effects of unhealthy relationships with food. As child obesity is rising, its only reasonable for us to want our kids to embrace a healthier lifestyle when it comes to their nutrition. While parents typically offer the most well-intentioned comments, they can have detrimental effects on our kid’s body image potentially creating food disorders.
Over the past 50 years studies have showed that almost 1/3 of people in the UK skip breakfast. More and more we are programming out kids to eat less in the morning than the middle of the day or in the evening. Some people are programmed to eating a big breakfast. And while this doesn’t suggest that this group of people are any healthier, studies show they are less likely to have an abnormal BMI or other nutrition deficient related ailments. There’s a ton of bad information that is counterproductive and distract us from important nutritional guidance. As parents we have the luxury of experimenting with our kids on trying new techniques to having this important meal of the day every day of the week.
For some time now, there has been evidence to suggest that skipping breakfast could actually be useful in losing weight. But what is good for adults is not necessarily good for kids. The difference is between breaking bad habits in adults and forming good habits in kids; the logic in either does not serve the other. Sending your kids to school with little to no breakfast affects their glucose levels and lowers their metabolic rate. More importantly you’re setting your kid up to overcompensate the missed breakfast when having their lunch. Skipping meals are proven to make us much hungrier. In children the danger is even greater when they overeat and pack on the weight. This will not make up the loss of daily fuel and overall nutrition your kids need. There are multiple references with Public Health England and NHS guidelines. Many other professional food industry experts concur that this diet myth is more dangerous than excessive fasting. Some studies even show this leads to eating disorders in kids.
It goes without saying we as adults skip breakfast, rushing to get the kids ready ourselves, and off to work. We barely have time for a cup of coffee much less a healthy breakfast. What’s even more sad is that most parents are left assuming that their kids have a meal before their first break. But for young kids who are still developing this can have devastating consequences on their overall health. Getting something right the first time is always the easier than skipping a meal. We all know it’s true, but we pass on these nasty eating habits as a way of life to our kids. Research has shown particularly teenagers go to school with habits they took up in their early development stage of childhood.
More and more over processed and high fructose food products are dominating both school and at home. It is imperative that kids educate and expand their knowledge of nutrition making them aware of the dangers of fast foods, sugar spiking foods, and mood swinging processed snacks so they can plan their meals. Obviously one of the best ways to help your kid’s avoid eating empty calories like burgers, pastries, etc. is to prepare food for them to carry to school. Investing in this healthy habit now will give your kids the right tools to develop more healthy eating habits as they grow into adults.
Now that we’re all grown up, we have to follow in line and remind our kids that breakfast is paramount as it is the main source of energy in the morning. More importantly, studies show it advances memory function and supplies a better mood and understanding in the classroom. You need to talk to your kids about bad eating habits just as seriously as you would smoking cigarettes. When it comes to their bad eating habits, they have to process what they’ve learned from home and apply it when you’re not around; we hope at least. Even though these are potentially life altering habits that carry serious consequences as parents we can balance the heavy details with patience and encouragement. Let them know how cool is to take care of their bodies. Explaining a good breakfast to your kids should be as easy as explaining why you need petrol in the car to get down the road.
The data suggest that kids who miss breakfast or putting off eating until later in the day have a higher BMI (body mass index – combines an individual’s weight with their height). Here’s another not so fun fact, they have lower test scores too. In addition to their physical development (or lack thereof), your kids nutrition has a significant impression on their mental development. Simply put, breakfast is your best chance to ensure your kids get healthy and quality foods.
The greatest misconception about a healthy food is that if it’s healthy and of good quality that it must be expensive. Instant oatmeal which can be pared with fruit and is loaded with hidden sugars. The night before, take a moment to mix yogurt or milk with chia sees along with some oatmeal and let it sit in the fridge overnight. In the morning just add berries or an organic honey and your kids your kids will be licking the bowl clean. These combinations can help improve your kids’ concentration throughout the door. Think about waking up an extra 20 minutes earlier in the morning and you can have a healthy breakfast with your family that isn’t rushed or lacking in valuable nutrients. And if you’re going to be getting up a little earlier to focus on a family breakfast, make sure the television and digital devices are off the table. Avoid the distractions that rush us out of the home and make us forget to eat a good healthy breakfast. Always avoid products that say, “cereal grains”, they are levied with sugar. By adding to their lunchbox a protein-based sandwich with whole wheat with fresh veggies on the side you’ll ensure your kids are still on track throughout the day.
It is important to know what your kids school canteen is serving. More often than not, their goal is to just make the very minimum governmental health guidelines. The schools lunch counter can play a big role in their development with healthier food choices or can do the opposite. In recent years schools have improved in this department and have placed more scrutiny on their food choices improving their eating behaviors. The majority of your kid’s day is spent in the school which includes lunch and snack time depending on your kids age. This can offer a profound impact on their eating habits at home. How they eat at lunch will all but certain determine their eating habits when they are home.
These days chefs work closely with nutritionist and even students to provide healthy and tasty menus that deliver well balanced meals. The best part of these programs is that the schools and the kids grade them on how they’re doing and in some cased dictate what they want from their school canteen experience. When kids who spend the next 10 to 12 years in a school canteen, they should have a voice allowing them to grow up making healthier choices. The alternate is standing in line, taking what is put on their plate and never knowing there are better options out there.
Changing bad behaviours is not an easy thing today. Changing daily eating habits in developing kids is even harder. There are a lot of commercial reasons for understanding why kids eat what they eat and why parents allow it. Major food companies are selling these breakfast cereals with one goal; to make them more appealing at other times of the day. As parents we must be mindful that these companies are pouncing on the breakfast market just to increase their sales. In fact, the odds are stacked against us; these breakfast and morning snacks are growing faster than any other food group. Their marketing tactics of naming and packaging as “healthy options” are becoming more and more of a problem. This is why as parents we must do our due diligence and stick with food that are fresh and not over processed. A sure way of sticking to changing this behaviour is buying from local growers. Now that the healthy alternative is growing amongst consumers there are more healthy “choices” and not “options”.
The most important part of changing these bad eating habits is eating at home. More and more people are losing this battle because they don’t have time to eat at home; they are running out the door with pastry wrapped in a paper towel washing it down with a coffee. Even worse the deceptive marketing tactics of big chain food grocers are selling us false hopes that the “on the go” food choices are healthy and more than a temporary fix to our daily diets. When it comes to our kids, thinking of healthy choices the night before and even preparing them before bed can help change these habits and put less stress on your morning routine.
In conclusion, there are obviously multiple reasons why breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But the decisions we make for our kid’s breakfast have a major impact on both how they function and eat throughout the day. More importantly, how they develop their own eating habits as they get older. We have to make the decision about if and what we eat and drink at the start of the day really have impactful effects on our kids’ health, well-being, and learning capabilities. The great thing about using local growers and grocers is that they are more in tune with the requirements of their consumers when it comes to their kids daily nutritional requirements. More than ever we must consider simple nutritional choices as lifesaving habits that teach our kids to develop healthier eating habits. Our kids today are more astute than ever. We as parents must model our eating habits if we want them to follow in our footsteps. If you’re prone to fad diets and have poor execution skills of your own nutritional requirements, they can pick it up. Talking about good nutrition rather than discussing food as reward, bribe, or punishment allows your kids to see the value in “their” nutrition at an early age. When we talk to our kids with positive reinforcement about different eating habits, we can gauge what works and doesn’t. We aren’t just educating our kids; we’re giving them the tools to make good decisions about their nutrition. Talk to your kids about how their eating habits (good or bad) might affect them both physically and emotionally. Talk to them about using local growers and grocers and why this ensures better habits as they grow into young adults. I’ve covered the myths, do’s and don’ts; I’ve even touched on setting a better example for your kids. The most important thing is have an open dialogue with your kids about why nutrition is important to you both.