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Breakfast – the most important meal of the day

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Breakfast is the most essential meal. “It breaks the long overnight fast, helping you wake up and get going.” (Hark, L. Deen, D. 2007, pg 14). Most importantly eating breakfast helps you to stop feeling hungry later and therefore you will be more alert at school or work as you have consumed energy in food kilojoules to concentrate. There have been numerous studies conducted over the past years, many concluding that breakfast is important for adolescents. Bad habits are extremely hard to break, for example someone who bites their nails finds it very hard to stop. This can be applied to an adolescence diet, if bad habits are created early on in life then it will be hard to break this habit. Therefore, is essential to start good habits of eating a healthy nutritious breakfast daily as early in life as possible.

Breakfast is known as the most imperative meal of the day, but is this a cliché fact? Teenagers have been ignoring the guidance of their parents and have been choosing to eat high-sugar and high-fat foods for breakfast or they have not been eating breakfast at all. ‘Breakfast’ literally means ‘breaking the fast’ and it should be noted that it may in fact be perhaps a minimum of eight hours since the preceding meal. Unfortunately, too many people are skipping breakfast or not eating a healthy breakfast and those people are suffering a variety of consequences. Not only is it important for everyone to eat breakfast, but unquestionably essential for adolescents to eat breakfast and break the habit of skipping breakfast. (Hark, L. Deen. D. 2007). Those who skip breakfast are prone to having slower reaction times and are more accident-prone.

Adolescents is the major concern group for skipping breakfast, because this leads to greater hyperactivity, irritability and anxiety and they also have more disruptive behaviour patterns in the classroom and have a decreased ability to concentrate and solve problems. Their mood and their energy can drop by midmorning, if they do not eat at least a small morning meal due to their low blood sugar levels. Therefore, eating breakfast is a great way to give the body the refueling it needs, and adolescents who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities due to their high long-lasting energy. Encouraging adolescents to eat before leaving the home is important because they will be less likely to grab a high-fat and high-sugar snack on the way to school. These types of snacks should be avoided for breakfast as they are usually very low in complex carbohydrates and high in simple carbohydrates, therefore after a short amount of time the energy supplied by the sugar will be gone and concentration will begin to decrease. (Gavin, M. 2006. Hark, L. Deen. D. 2007.)

Adolescents are continuing to skip breakfast for a number of different reasons but often because of the perception that having a thin body – ectomorphic body type is admired and so they will reduce kilojoule intake by skipping breakfast. Also, overweight adolescents are more likely to skip the morning meal however this rarely results in real calorie reduction. This is primarily because they will grab a high-sugar and fat snack to fill their looming hunger, to provide the energy needed. Adolescents who eat breakfast kick-start their metabolism for the day, by this process where the body converts the energy from the consumed food into work energy for the day’s activities. This means that the body starts burning calories more effectively and efficiently throughout the day. In a survey (see Appendix A for sample survey) conducted at Brisbane Adventist College (BAC) the results show that only 35% of adolescents eat breakfast seven times a week (see Appendix B for all results).

The school canteen providing breakfast would help break the cycle of skipping breakfast and promote a good healthy lifestyle. It is more likely, that people who don’t eat breakfast actually consume more calories throughout the day and are more likely to be overweight than those who skip lunch, as someone who skips breakfast will get more ravenous before lunchtime and snack on high-calorie foods or overeat at lunchtime. (Gavin, M. 2006). Eating breakfast is essential to aid in a fast metabolism and efficient burning of kilojoules taken in by food and to assist during the major body changes in the adolescent life stage. “Girls aged 11-14 and boys aged 12-15 undergo major physical and psychological changes that affect their behaviour and what they need to eat.” (Hark, L. Deen, D. 2007, pg 132). The body changes amplify their energy and nutrient needs, due to physiological changes both males and females have different requirements in both these areas respectively. However, only 40% of students were aware of the special nutrients needed during their adolescent years.

Most students knew that protein, iron and calcium were some of the essential nutrients needed for adolescents. As they go through these major body changes, adolescents often develop ravenous appetites and it is important that they fill up on nutritious food rather than unhealthy snack foods (The Courier-Mail, Eating Healthy, 2008. pg 40, 41). Girls usually have a rapid period of growth at the onset of puberty, whereas boys grow at their fastest after their sexual development is more advanced. In healthy girls, menstruation usually starts about a year after their growth spurt begins, their iron and protein requirements start to increase as do other mineral needs associated with rapid growth. As boys enter puberty, their muscle mass increases, during this time their demand for protein, calories, vitamins and minerals enhances dramatically.

Some of the special nutritional needs during the adolescent years include; protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals including calcium, phosphorous and iron, vitamins including the vitamin B group, vitamin C and water (see Appendix C for full nutritional requirements). Eating breakfast during these years is essential to help meet the dietary requirements of adolescents which promote good health and how to achieve it. Adolescents may be at risk of developing deficiencies or put on excessive adipose tissue if not enough essential dietary requirements are met. (Hark, L. Deen. D. 2007.)The Healthy Eating Pyramid was developed by Nutrition Australia to help people be able to know how to classify each food they regularly eat in their diet into three main categories: eat most, eat moderately and eat least. (see Appendix D for diagram).

Notably this supplies adolescents an easy picture showing proportions of food that they should be eating. Reassuringly 80% of students surveyed were conscious of what the Healthy Eating Pyramid represented. From a quick glance adolescents can see what types of food they should be eating the most, moderately and what they should be eating the least. A nutritional breakfast based on the Healthy Eating Pyramid could be wholemeal toast, yoghurt and a piece of fruit. This is a simple, easy to prepare breakfast which provides carbohydrates, calcium and essential vitamins such as vitamin C to the growing adolescent body. (http://www.healthyeatingclub.org/info/articles/food-guides/he-pyramid.htm). Also, the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia (see Appendix E for full guidelines) was created by food and nutrition experts to outline basic and vital guidelines as to which adolescents should adhere for balanced and healthy nutrition.

Similarly to the Healthy Eating Pyramid, the Dietary Guidelines provide vital information to make nutritionally sound food choices for a healthy and nutritious breakfast. Some healthy, nutritious and easy options could be whole-grain cereal topped with fruit and yoghurt, vegetable omelettes with a bran muffin and fresh orange juice or a breakfast smoothie consisting of milk, fruit and bran whirled up in a blender. These two nutritional tools need to be promoted throughout schools and other sources such as medical centers to ensure parents, children and adolescents can best make nutritional food choices. Schools should include a unit in all year 8 classes to help increase nutritional education so that students may be encouraged to make good food choices.

An unbalanced diet, especially in adolescents, can cause deterioration in the condition of the skin, hair and teeth. (Class notes). By following a nutritious diet and having a healthy breakfast every day of the week, an adolescent can attain benefits such as improved physical appearance, healthy complexion, extra energy and a happier disposition. As the adolescents years are an important time of life is it essential that the body is supplied with all of the six food nutrients. Good nutritional breakfast habits during childhood and adolescents will benefit their health for the rest of their lives. Dr. Theresa Nickals says “Breakfast supplies more than just the energy kids need to get through the morning. Teens who eat breakfast are also two to five times more likely to consume at least two-thirds the recommended amounts of most vitamins and minerals, including iron.” (Williams, L. N.D)

Forming good habits now, with a nutritionally balanced diet is essential to a healthy life. This is because creating good habits at a young age will enable people to follow these good eating habits throughout their life. Adolescent’s need to be careful in their food choices, as foods which they think may be assisting in their good health may not be. It is recommended to provide a quick easy option to discourage adolescents from skip the most important meal of the day – ‘breakfast’. Providing an options such as a piece of fruit, a healthy muesli or breakfast bar, which requires no time to prepare will aid in the prevention of skipping breakfast altogether. It is essential that all adolescents are educated on how important eating breakfast is to their overall diet and wellbeing. The home and school play an important part in this education process.

Bibliography

Australian Government – Department of Health and Ageing. Food for Health.

http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/_files/n31.pdf[Accessed 17th May 2008]Australian Nutrition Foundation. (1997). The Healthy Eating Pyramid.

http://www.healthyeatingclub.org/info/articles/food-guides/he-pyramid.htm[Accessed 17th May 2008]Gavin, M. (2006). Breakfast Basics.

http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_fit/nutrition/breakfast.html[Accessed 19th May 2008]Grant, E. Fraser, P. (1994). Food, Nutrition and People. The Jacaranda Press: Milton.

Hark, L. Deen, D. (2007). Nutrition. Dorling Kindersley Australia Pty Ltd: Victoria.

Most Adolescents Fail to Meet the Recommended Dietary Requirementswww.womenshealthcaretopics.com/teen_eating_habits.htm[Accessed 15th May 2008]The Courier-Mail. May 20th 2008. Head Start. “Eating Healthy” page 40 – 41.

Williams, L. (N.D.) Breakfast-skipping teens more likely to suffer iron shortfallhttp://www.bcm.edu/news/item.cfm?newsID=675[Accessed 8th May 2008]

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