“Never skip breakfast, it's the most important meal of the day.” You’ve probably heard or read this statement umpteen times. But in our fast-paced lives, breakfast often means something quick; like a bowl of cereal with milk or an instant oatmeal. This instant formula, often applies to our kids’ breakfast as well. Frosty cereal with sweetened milk, chocolate spread or jam on toast and malt milk drinks; are all easy breakfast ideas for kids and is precisely what our kids’ tummies are served, first thing in the morning!
Busting the breakfast myths
But have we ever thought of the amount of sugar we pump into our children through these quick-fix breakfasts? This recent article published by The Guardian (UK)makes some frightening observations. It points out, that children receive a huge amount of sugar through breakfast itself - more than half their daily requirement on an average. These findings have been validated by the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS), UK.
Organizations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and The US Department of Agriculture have provided limits of daily sugar intake. The reason? Excess dietary sugar has an alarming effect on kids’ brains; similar to that of alcohol!
Sugar is like ‘alcohol to the child’
Alcohol, when consumed, provides calories (7kcal/g) but no nutrition. Excessive alcohol in the body is toxic, as it negatively impacts the brain and the liver. For dietary sugar, it is made up of two components: glucose and fructose. While Fructose is a source of energy (4kcal/g) the body doesn't particularly need it for any important biochemical function. So when consumed in excess, fructose too, like alcohol, has toxic effects on the body. This is why we hear children suffering from diseases related to alcohol abuse (type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease) without actually consuming alcohol. Excessive sugar is like, 'alcohol to the child.’
What is even more shocking is the amount of sugar in packaged toddler foods. In 2015, the US Centres for Disease Control found that 32% of toddler foods or baby juices had sugar from some source in them. 35% of the calorie content of the food was from these sugars. Imagine the repercussions of these foods on a child’s formative years.
What our children eat for their breakfast a.k.a the most important meal of the day will bear a great impact on their health later. So mommies, mind what your kids have for breakfast.
Here are few tips to be more aware of what we feed our children
- Encourage your child to eat fresh, healthy breakfast. There’s nothing like nutritious, homemade food to wake up the brain.
- If you need to sweeten any food, try jaggery, date syrup or applesauce. Limit the use of white sugar.
- We rarely read the labels of packaged foods, especially the breakfast cereals. The words ‘fortified’, ‘enriched’ or ‘whole wheat’ sound attractive, but are marketing gimmicks. Most cereals contain a whole lot of sugar than required in addition to the other stuff. An average serving of cereal contains 12g of sugar. So choose wisely.
- Sugar is added in various forms in packaged food. Corn syrup, dextrose, fructose or honey is also dietary sugar.
- Steer clear from fizzy drinks. Studies have proved that there is a link between sugary drinks and behavioural problems in children.
- Plan and prep for breakfast the night before. It will save time and the temptation to reach out for the cereal box.
Here’s to raising healthier, happier kids!