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Parenting Parent - A family affair

Parenting Parent - NO time, no appetite and nothing to eat are the most common reasons that we hear when children skip breakfast. In fact, these are the same reasons given by the parents themselves. However, parents know that breakfast is an important meal of the day. It is the first energy-giver of the day and it helps your child to concentrate in class and stay active during school.

So how do we get them to eat breakfast? Tracy Lew, Corporate Nutrition Advisor of Nestle Malaysia, and consultant dietician Mary Easaw-John share ways to get children to eat breakfast.

Quality, not quantity - The most common reason why children do not want to eat breakfast is that they are not hungry. It is early in the morning and their body needs time to get started. Thus, they have no appetite for breakfast. Besides, some children wake up so early that they are still too sleepy to worry about food.

“It is not quantity but quality that matters,” says Lew. “If your child is not hungry, try to serve a light breakfast without neglecting his nutritional and energy needs.”

“Remember that breakfast is about what your child eats rather than how much he eats. Look at common breakfast fare such as cereals, hot drinks, milk and bread to find out how much nutrients and energy they provide. That way, you can plan a breakfast that is healthy and yet light enough for the times when your child is not hungry in the morning.”

Pack it - Since it may be difficult for children to eat breakfast before they rush off to school, you can prepare something they can take along to eat in the car or in the bus. As children wake up early in the morning, their bodies need a little time to warm up before they feel like eating.

A slice of bread with some fruit is easy enough to pack, and easy for children to eat while on the go. Hot drinks can be made and stored in thermal flasks.

Be a role model - You are the best role model for your children. When they see that you are not eating breakfast, they will feel that breakfast is not important. So the best thing to do is to sit down with them and have a good breakfast together, before work or school.

Parents and kids are often rushing for time in the morning. In the midst of this rush, it is easy to sacrifice breakfast.

“Our kids follow our examples, bad or good,” says Easaw-John. “For our kids to enjoy breakfast, we ourselves must set the example. If you are working, plan your morning ahead so that you don’t rush around the house, giving the impression that breakfast is a chore.”

If you are willing to take it a step further, you can even eat the same food they are having for breakfast.

The night before - A good start to the day begins the night before. The most important tip is to plan ahead, says Easaw-John. “Parents can set a weekly breakfast menu so that the kids can select their breakfast before they go to bed the night before. This way, we won’t be wasting time in the morning trying to figure out what to eat. Parents can also prepare the items in the menu earlier.

“Breakfast is a family event. Planning for breakfast can involve the whole family. Sit your whole family down on a Sunday evening to plan out the breakfast for the week ahead. Kids can help set the table every night before they go to bed.

“Planning ahead for breakfast involves more than just the meal itself. You can encourage your kids to pack their school bags and prepare their clothes the night before. This way, they will have more time in the morning to sit down for a quick breakfast.”

A little time management goes a long way. You can wake up earlier than your children. This will give you time to focus on your daily routine before waking them up. While they are getting ready, you can prepare their breakfast.

You can also prepare a list of things you want your children to do in the morning and reward them when they get certain things done. After a while, these tasks will be second nature to them.

With a plan in place, everything will run smoothly in the morning.

Variety is king - In the midst of the morning rush, parents sometimes tend to stick to a menu that is convenient and easy to prepare. However, kids can get bored fast, especially if they are faced with eating the same thing day in, day out. One way to make breakfast interesting is to vary the menu.

For example, a weekly breakfast menu can be as follows:

Monday: Bread with peanut butter, and a glass of hot drink

Tuesday: Fried meehoon with a glass of beverage

Wednesday: Breakfast cereal with a hot drink, and yoghurt

Thursday: Pau kacang merah with a hot drink, and a slice of papaya

Friday: Sardine sandwich with a hot drink, and a banana

Saturday: Roti canai with a beverage

Sunday: Nasi lemak with a hot drink

The changes are not earth-shattering but a small change will break the routine because your child might not want to eat bread everyday. Some of the meals can be time-consuming to prepare, so you might want to leave that for the weekend and try the easier meals on weekdays.

Make it fun - While changing the menu is good, there are more ways to spice things up in the morning to get your child interested in having breakfast. You can play a role to make sure your child enjoys breakfast every morning. Use special breakfast mugs, their favourite bowls or interesting mats. Lay them out on the table the way they like it or you can ask them to design their own layout the night before.

Rope in the family - Dinner has generally been the time that families get together for a little bonding session. However, breakfast can also be a fun time for the family to get closer to each other.

“As you plan ahead for your child’s breakfast, remember to involve them too,” says Easaw-John. “This way, you get to communicate with your kids and educate them on the importance of nutrition at the same time.”

They can help decide the menu for the week and they can set the tables the night before. This will make breakfast simpler to prepare as you delegate tasks instead of doing everything yourself.

The most important thing about breakfast is that planning ahead is important so that our children will not feel bored or think they do not have enough time for breakfast. A simple nutritious breakfast does not take long to prepare. So enjoy breakfast with your kids!- Parenting Parent

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