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Breaking Barriers with Breakfast – National Breakfast Month

pic 7Breakfast is widely known as the most critical of daily meals, with multiple proven physical, mental and even social benefits to those who make it part of their lives, yet according to a study published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it is still frequently skipped1. Even armed with the facts, South Africans are still struggling to get breakfast on the table, whether due to economic circumstances or time management, and in addition, many are making poor breakfast choices. Dietitians believe this highlights the need for further guidance about breakfast’s benefits and how to incorporate it into everyday life.

The power of breakfast is the focus of National Breakfast Month this March, highlighting and celebrating the key benefits of starting your day off right.  “It’s worrying to see that breakfast eating is still not as common a practice in South Africa as it should be,” said Cape Town dietitian Kath
Megaw. “In fact, the older children get, the less likely they are to eat breakfast, with only about 65% of urban South African teens eating breakfast regularly.” Almost one in five South African children are going to school on an empty stomach, according to The National Nutrition and Examination Survey South Africa.1

Kellogg is addressing the problem of the absence of breakfast in people’s lives globally and in South Africa, where almost one in five South African children go to school hungry. Through its Breakfast for Better Days™ Initiative, working alongside the Department of Basic Education and FoodBank South Africa, Kellogg is dishing up a breakfast of cereal and milk to 25 000 school children every school day in 2015 in four South African provinces.

So why are so many children not eating breakfast? The 2012 study states that of the 19% of children ages 10-14 who are not eating breakfast, the largest percentage (39%) say they are not hungry in the morning, 33.9% have no food in the house, 33% say that the people at their home do not eat breakfast, 19.2% cannot get up early enough to eat breakfast and 15.3% cannot make their own breakfast 1. According to another study conducted in three Soweto high schools, the majority of girls interviewed reported that they skipped a breakfast meal eaten at home, opting to rather purchase a less healthy food such as vetkoek en route to school instead.2

National Breakfast Month aims to highlight the benefits of eating breakfast which have been studied extensively, with some studies showing an immediate effect on cognitive performance and feelings of well-being, as well as extended benefits related to nutrient intakes and weight management. Breakfast consumption has also been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus.1

Make Breakfast a Family Affair

Dietitians recommend that if the means exist at home to put breakfast on the table regularly, the meal should be eaten preferably as a family. “Families should adopt healthy eating as a unit, supporting each other in an effort to achieve optimal health for the prevention of disease,” said KZN based dietitian Kelly Francis.

“Perhaps there needs to be a shift in the mindset of all health promotion-related parties,” added Francis.  “South Africans first need to see healthy eating as a responsibility and then learn how to eat healthily. Parents need to accept healthy food provision as part of the responsibilities they have for children. Children cannot be left to their own devices in this area.”

“In addition to providing an opportunity to meet our nutritional needs, eating breakfast provides an opportunity to spend more time together as a family,” says Francis. “People always complain that life is too busy for breakfast. Sitting down to breakfast is a good time to gather your thoughts and prepare for the day ahead.

Here are a few tips this National Breakfast Month to help make breakfast part of your daily routine:

  • A healthy breakfast starts with planning. You will only have a healthy breakfast if healthy options are available in your home.  By not planning, the chances are good that you will revert to your old habits of skipping this important meal.
  • Make a shopping list to help you buy the right food. Once in the shop, you might forget to buy food for breakfast, especially if you are used to not eating breakfast.
  • You can always prepare breakfast the night before, if you struggle to make time for it in the morning. Set the table and get the dishes out. If you are having cereal, you don’t have to put it in the bowls, but make sure that the box is close by.
  • Children are always keen to learn.  Make sure you involve them.  Over the weekend, when you have more time, let them help you make breakfast, e.g. teach them step- by-step how to make a breakfast of their choice. You will be surprised at how much they enjoy this. By doing this you also teach them healthy eating habits.
  • Make sure you have interesting placemats, cutlery and bowls for children.  This makes breakfast more exciting.
  • Vary your breakfast options to prevent boredom.

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