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Breakfast Is Important!

Breakfast Is Important!

The MyBreakfast Study of School Children is the first nationwide breakfast study of its kind. It was first initiated in 2013 by the Nutrition Society of Malaysia with contributions from the Cereal Partners Worldwide and Nestle R&D Centre, Singapore. Almost 9,000 school children aged 6 to 17 years from all over Malaysia were involved.

The results of the study were revealed in December 2015, and here are some of the key findings.

In this study, ‘breakfast’ is defined as the first eating occasion after an overnight sleep, until 10 am on weekdays and 11 am on weekends. Choosing to avoid eating until after the time stipulated is considered ‘skipping breakfast’.

How are our kids these days?

Our kids are getting heavier.

  • About 28% of our school children are overweight or obese. More than 30% of boys have excess kilos while almost 25% of the girls face the same issue.
  • The prevalence among urban and rural school children are similar.

Some kids however, are not growing up at a normal rate.

  • About 7% of our school children experience stunting, and the prevalence is higher among those in rural areas.

Recommendations by the Research Committee:

  • Parents should become more involved in encouraging and supporting their children to adopt healthy eating and active living. They can act by example, by adopting these habits themselves.
  • The relevant government bodies should implement urgent intervention programmes to address the weighty problem of our increasingly overweight and obese school children population. Nutrition education and nutrition-related activities should also be implemented in schools.

The importance of breakfast 

Findings of studies such as Rampersaud et al (2005) found that the inclusion of specific nutritious foods at breakfast, such as ready-to-eat cereals and milk, has been associated with increased intakes of fibre, calcium and other micronutrients (vitamin A and C, riboflavin, zinc, iron, etc).

The MyBreakfast Study results support such study findings.

  • Breakfast contributed about 25% of the school children’s total energy intake from meals.
  • It also contributes a significant amount of micronutrients, therefore helping school children meet their recommended daily nutrient intake.

What are Malaysian school children eating for breakfast?

  • Bread (38.9%)
  • Eggs (30.1%)
  • Chicken and other types of meat (22.5%)
  • Nasi lemak (21.5%)
  • Fried rice (20.6%)

Whole grains need more love.

  • Whole grains can bestow protective benefits against certain diseases (including diabetes) in adults, and it is possible that they will also be beneficial for school children.
  • However, only 25% of primary school and 19% of secondary school children consume whole grains.
  • Almost all the children surveyed (97.7%) do not meet the recommended daily whole grain intake (2-4 servings a day)!

Recommendations by the Research Committee:

  • Serve breakfast foods that are not too sweet, salty or oily.
  • Breakfast portion sizes should also be appropriate.
  • Add more whole grains into breakfast as well as other meals of the day. For example, serve whole grain bread instead of ‘white’ bread; whole grain cereals instead of refined cereals.  Whole grain noodles, rice and pasta are all good choices to consider.
  • The trick to getting used to the taste, texture and colour of whole grains is to start by mixing a small amount of whole grains with the processed grains school children normally enjoy. Over time, increase the amount of whole grains while decreasing the amount of processed grains.

Skipping breakfast linked to overweight & obesity

Despite the benefits of breakfast, 1-in-4 school children tend to skip it for 3 or more days a week.

  • More girls (26%) skip breakfast compared to boys (23%).
  • More secondary school children skip breakfast compared to primary school children.
  • The prevalence of breakfast skippers is similar in both urban and rural areas.
  • Breakfast skippers are 1.34 times more likely to be overweight or obese.

Recommendations by the Research Committee:

  • Parents should make an effort to prepare breakfast for their children and encourage them to eat it before going to school.
  • Interventions should be implemented to promote regular breakfast consumption, such as through schools, as part of our country’s efforts to address the overweight and obesity problem among school children.

Our kids are not moving enough

  • One in three school children have low physical activity level. This is more prevalent among girls.
  • Low physical activity is higher among breakfast skippers (42%) compared to breakfast eaters (32.5%).

Therefore, breakfast plays an important role in helping school children lose excess kilos and maintain a healthy weight. In addition to encouraging their children to be more physically active, parents should also play a more active role in ensuring that their children start the day with a healthy, balanced breakfast!

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