not at all or too much! the uk's approach to breakfast
There have been two contrasting reports about breakfast in today's media; firstly as many as 25% of children are going to school having had no breakfast. And on the other hand, there's a diner in Great Yarmouth serving a breakfast the weight of a small child! It includes 8 eggs, 12 rashers of bacon, 12 sausages, potatoes, mushrooms, hash browns, black pudding, beans and 12 slices of bread!
Clearly there seems to be an issue with the way many people are approaching breakfast in the UK. It's a meal that many people decide to skip thinking that they can save themselves an extra 10 minutes in the morning (and I've been there myself in the past) - thinking it's easier to just grab a coffee from the shop near the office than to make a nutritious breakfast at home. The problem is that whilst the coffee may suppress the hunger pangs for a few hours it doesn't give your bodies what they need after going all night without food and so around 11am we get that dip in energy, mood and concentration levels when our blood sugar levels drop too low - and keeping our blood sugar levels balanced is extremely important for good health.
But back to the news stories, and firstly the one about the Great Yarmouth Diner - why are we even being offered this as a breakfast option? Since when has greed been celebrated as a 'challenge'?! With the stresses that excess animal food production places on our already overly-pressured environment, rising levels of obesity and global hunger is this really responsible?
It's not something that is constrained to one diner - there's many around the country that offer similar 'challenges.' No it isn't a meal that anyone is going to eat every day but many people are eating large, unhealthy meals everyday and this is just one more sign of the super-sizing of our meals not balanced by any increase in our physical activity.
At the other end of the scale we have children who are not having any breakfast whatsoever when it's essential that they get a good, nutritious breakfast in the morning. Keeping our blood sugars balanced is not only essential for our overall health but also essential for the correct functioning of our brain - and a child uses a lot of brain-power at school. Some teachers say that this is partly to blame for lowered concentration levels at school.
This story has raised issues as to whether some parents can afford to offer breakfast, and it's beyond the scope of this article to examine that, but it is important that a way is found so that every child in the country has a good, nutritious breakfast.
I stress nutritious because a bowl of a chocolate-based cereal isn't going to benefit us or our brain function and neither is a piece of white toast with margarine or jam. The simplest, cheapest nutritious breakfast is porridge - takes hardly any time to make, costs a few pence a bowl and can set the child up for the day. If we add on a drizzle of honey it will satisfy the sweet tooth, add a little milk and it becomes more substantial.
If we've got time other healthy options might be:
- Some eggs or beans on whole-wheat toast
- Natural yoghurt and granola with a little honey with some berries and fruit
Now you may think that your children won't like some of those suggestions made above but it's about setting up healthy eating patterns for life so it's worth trying it with them to see - it may take them a while to adapt, but most tastes need to be acquired over time.
It's time that we give breakfast the respect that it deserves and take the time and energy to make sure we give ourselves, and our children, the best possible start to the day.
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