Breakfast-skippers, did you know that your brain uses 20% of the glucose in your diet? That’s probably why you feel lethargic and out of pep in the morning until you’ve had a bit of lunch. Mothers of breakfast-skipping children, if you’re wondering whether your child’s lack of nutritional intake in the morning negatively impacts him or her – the answer is a resounding “yes”.
According to a local study on the breakfast habits of school-going children in Singapore, more than 50% of respondents felt irritable, tired and not able to concentrate without breakfast.
And you’re very much not alone. Conducted by Milo Singapore, the SGBreakfast Study – A Study of Breakfast Habits of Singapore Primary and Secondary School Children, revealed that 12.3% of Singapore children aged six to 12 years old skipped breakfast, a proportion which increased to 24.7% among those aged 13 to 17 years old.
The importance of a good-quality breakfast surfaced at a recent panel discussion themed “Going beyond grades to nurture resilient Singaporean children who never give up”, organised by Milo Singapore. The panel comprised of Dr Sanveen Kang-Sadhnani, principal clinical psychologist at Thomson Paediatric Centre, Dr Kalpana Bhaskaran, Manager for Nutrition Research under the School of Applied Science and Head for the Glycemic Index Research Unit at Temasek Polytechnic, and Mr Edmund Lim, a former principal of a local primary school and vice-principal at both primary and secondary schools.
Parents who joined in the lively discussion were united one common challenge: How to get their children to cram down a proper breakfast before the crack of dawn. Being expected to report for school by 7.20 am means waking up as early as 5.30 am for some – an hour most of us are used to still being in bed, not chomping away like a hungry caterpillar.
Thankfully, Dr Kalpana had answers:
- Food at recess-time counts as breakfast as well, as long as it’s still in the AM.
- Eating breakfast is a matter of habit. Once you get used to eating something at a certain time, you will continue doing so even as an adult. So, start young!
- If the child cannot stomach a full-sized meal at dawn, a smoothie or a drink of Milo prepared with low-fat milk would be a convenient and adequate choice. Considered a low-GI (Glycemic Index) food, it releases energy slowly and prevents one’s sugar level from rising or dropping too rapidly, helping one feel full for longer. Or at least, until you feel like you’ve the appetite for a proper meal.
Not all breakfast foods are created equal – you need high-quality carbs that are low in GI to release sugar into your bloodstream at a steady trickle and keep your heart healthy. Inspired by Dr Kalpana, here are five breakfast foods convenient enough to slap together when you’re dashing for the door, yet nutritious enough to last you all morning.
- Overnight oats Oats can be eaten raw – and raw oats are yummy! Simply take equal parts yoghurt or milk and oats (not the powdery instant stuff, you want whole rolled oats) and combine. Stir in some chia seeds (rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and micronutrients). Sprinkle in flax seeds (also rich in omega-3 and antioxidants). Chop up fruit like bananas, strawberries or apple and toss them in.The best part: Overnight oats only takes a minute to assemble and you can do it the night before. If you don’t like your oats to be soggy, you can simply do it right before you eat in the morning.
- Popeye’s power smoothie Combine coconut water (click on the link to order the freshest bottled coconut water available on the market), blueberries, banana, spinach (yup, rich in iron!), flax seeds, acai powder, medjool dates, chia seeds and cocoa (or Milo) in a blender or food processor.The best part: Because the spinach is pulverised and mixed in with other goodies, you won’t taste it. You don’t even have to chew. Just slurp up your breakfast through a straw on the way to work or school. No more excuses for skipping!
- No-frills multi-grain sandwichSlap together some ham, sliced avocado, Japanese cucumber and tomato onto good multi-grain sandwich bread and eat.The best part: This one is a really substantial meal on its own and will last you until you decide to have lunch.
- Boiled eggsThis is a no-brainer. It doesn’t take any culinary skill or more than five minutes to boil an egg. You can put your pot on while you brush your teeth. Doesn’t matter whether it’s half-boiled or hard-boiled (this option will make you feel fuller). But here’s a secret: drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on your eggs together with ground white pepper and light soya sauce to kick it up a notch. Oh, the EVOO helps with bowel movement, too.The best part: Eggs are rich in protein, vitamins like vitamin B2 (great for your brain) and minerals like zinc. Also, if you like your breakfast to be warm, this is a great low GI option.
- Homemade granola with yoghurt or milkOK I’ve to put a disclaimer on this one – you can’t make a batch of granola when you’re rushing to go out. But if you’ve got 30 minutes to spare over the weekend, you can make enough granola to last you all week! A rough recipe would go like this:2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheatgerm
1/4 cup rinsed quinoa
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, whatever you fancy)
1/4 cup seeds (sunflower or pumpkin is nice)
1/2 cup chopped dried fruit (apricot, mango, dates, whatever you fancy)
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
2-3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
pinch of salt to taste
dash of cinnamon powder or few drops of vanilla essence
Feel free to omit or change any of the above ingredients as you like. Spread your raw granola mixture on a lined baking sheet and pop it into a preheated oven at 170 degrees Celsius. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Store in an airtight jar. To serve for breakfast, simply sprinkle onto plain Greek yoghurt or milk. I like to stir some chia seeds into my dairy first. 🙂
The best part: You can control the sugar content in homemade granola. If you’re one to read labels, you might have noticed that commercial cereals contain a LOT of sugar. Also, this granola is confirmed wholegrain, which is said to lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease in the long run.
Any more quick, delicious and nutritious breakfast ideas you’d like to share? Please leave them in the comments below.