British children are fat. Or so another report announces. This one (from the British Heart Foundation) says that a third of under 16s are overweight and that less than one in five children are eating their five a day. None of this is really news. In fact, I think the alarming news is that despite many campaigns about healthy eating and increased sporting activity, the obesity situation is not changing.
This blog post is not a rant on obesity. Instead, I would like to take this opportunity to share some tips on what you as a parent can do your part to improve the situation.
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Why then, does the report show that almost half (47%) of boys and over a third (36%) of girls aged 13 go skip breakfast?
In trying to address this issue, let's look at the reasons why anyone (us included) would skip breakfast?
1) Not Hungry
Not being hungry can happen now and again, but if you find this happening frequently, maybe you need to consider the size of dinner, dessert or supper portions. It takes between six and eight hours for digested food to get to the large colon. What this means is that sometimes we still feel full at breakfast and can't eat. The problem is that when the food is finally digested (maybe at 10 or 11am) and your child is starving, it will be impossible to concentrate - right in the middle of maths class. By regulating last night's meal, this can help.
Remember that you are an important role model when it comes to eating. Showing your kids that breakfast can be tasty and it is an important part of your day, is a good way to encourage them to eat it. You can also explain why we eat breakfast and what the benefits are. Learning about healthy eating can start at a very young age.
Be aware that older children and teenagers might refuse to eat breakfast as a way of showing their independence. Try not to make a big deal about this. You could suggest your child takes a piece of fruit, a smoothie or a muffin to have on her trip to school instead. Or else, let them choose a healthy breakfast option when you are out shopping.
2) Nothing Tasty
Now if someone says there's nothing tasty to eat, well that's an easy one to solve. Keep variety the name of the game. Here's some handy ideas:
- One slice of brown bread, peanut butter and half a banana. A glass of orange juice.
- Pitta bread and scrambled eggs with a slice of tomato and a glass of milk.
- Porridge with dried milk and a glass of fruit juice.
- French toast with bacon and a glass of milk.
- Oatmeal and fruit smoothie.
3) No Time
Protestations of no time can come from anyone in the family.
However you should try and make breakfast a time to sit and eat with your kids. I read this interesting article last week which calls for us to consider replacing family dinners with family breakfasts. I am not sure if I am fully bought in, but it would a great idea to get everyone around the breakfast table at least once a week and certainly for special occasions - first day Back to School, birthdays, big sports games etc. Breakfast is seen as a social gathering and a chance for the family to catch up.
If you find that a hectic morning schedule gets in the way of breakfast, get organised the night before. Set alarms earlier, pack bag's the night before, agree on clothes. I always laid out the breakfast table the night before so everything's good to go.
And if you can't beat the clock, breakfast on the go is better than a row. Here's some on-the-go ideas that I have tried with my kids:
- Sausage on a fork
- Smoothies in plastic cups
- French toast in a serviette
Hopefully these tips will get you sorted for the new year.
I have more tips on money tips, meal plans and getting sorted for Back to School in my eBook. Why not check it out?