Though studies have highlighted the importance of a nutritious breakfast for children, some parents let their wards skip it because of poor finances and inadequate knowledge. Etop Ekanem writes on the benefits of a healthy breakfast and efforts of the leading dairy brand, Peak 456 Growing Up Milk, in providing it to Nigerian children
Bubbly four-year-old John doesn’t like to eat breakfast. Preparing him for school goes well until it’s time to eat breakfast. At such moments, the usually lively child becomes sullen, crying endlessly with his mum having to force his cereal down his throat literally. His habit is similar to that of five-year-old Tolu. Though older, he prefers snacks rather than the fruits and nutrient-rich cereals his mother serves.
John and Tolu are not alone. Like many other children in Nigeria, they would rather not eat in the morning or just have snacks until much later. However, studies have shown that this is not good for their development. Breakfast, the studies explained, is the fuel that energises them throughout the day, especially after eight to 10 hours of sleep.
Nutritionists further said that children who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and are more likely to be physically active. Conversely, skipping breakfast has side effects, including the children feeling tired, restless or irritable. Their mood and energy can drop hours later if they don’t eat a nutritious meal at breakfast.
Other studies have also highlighted the importance of breakfast tailored to the age-specific nutritional requirements of children. So, breakfast for different age ranges, including four to six years old children, is considered a critical period of growth and development. Yet another study concluded that children who ate nutritious breakfast had higher test scores than those who didn’t. The study further reveals that most children don’t get all the vitamins and minerals they need from just lunch and dinner.
Besides, better nutrition during early childhood plays a vital role in determining a child’s overall health, achieving optimal growth and development, and developing cognitive abilities to their full potential. An age-appropriate healthy diet that is adequate and well-balanced, the study concludes, is the foundation of optimum growth and development.
American medical doctor, Mary L. Gavin, notes: “Breakfast may help keep children’s weight in check. Breakfast kick-starts the body’s metabolism; the process by which the body converts the fuel in food to energy. And when the metabolism gets moving, the body starts burning calories. And some studies suggest that bodies burn calories better in the morning than late at night. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight because they may snack more often throughout the day, overeat at later meals and eat late at night.”
Paediatrician Dr. Katie Hecker asserts the same, adding that breakfast boosts brainpower and helps kids get more fibre, calcium, and other vital nutrients.
However, it is not anything that children can eat in the morning. Their meals need to be nutritious and age-appropriate, Dr Hecker insists. She recommends that breakfast food should include fibre and protein like peanut butter and whole wheat and contain dairies like milk and smoothies. They should also be rich in carbohydrates (fresh or frozen fruit).
Akon Imoh, Marketing Manager, FrieslandCampina WAMCO, makers of Peak 456 Growing Up Milk, aligned with Dr Hecker by noting that children who eat healthy breakfast are more active and creative. She also stressed the importance of age-appropriate breakfast for children, especially those aged 4-6 years old, advising that parents shouldn’t feed their children whatever is available because of the challenging economy. They only need to be creative with breakfast for their children and supplement whatever they prepare with Peak 456 Growing Up Milk.
“Peak 456 Growing Up Milk is age-appropriate milk, specially formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of children 4-6 years old to help them grow up strong and smart. It is the first milk of its kind in Nigeria. We believe that every child has the right to better nutrition. Hence, we aim to make age-appropriate nutrition accessible to every Nigerian child, starting from breakfast. That was why during this year’s Children’s Day, we provided breakfast for those aged four to six years with Peak 456,” she said.
Imoh added that Peak 456 Growing Up Milk contains special nutrients, including a unique blend of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), critical in building the brain’s structure and other brain-supportive nutrients to aid optimal brain development of children. Clinically studied benefits of DHA in growing children include enhanced neurocognitive functions, improved vision, and good behaviour. For example, the DHA Oxford Learning and Behaviour (DOLAB) study on normal but underperforming children discovered that DHA supplementation dramatically improved their reading and behaviour.
Supplementing with DHA-rich fish oil moderates the perceived hyperactivity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms, impulsiveness, and anger in children.
“Peak 456 Growing Up Milk has supportive growth nutrients such as high-quality protein, calcium, and Vitamin D to support physical growth and achievement of developmental milestones. This is in addition to immune-supportive nutrients like Vitamin A, D, E and C, Zinc, Selenium and Manganese to strengthen the body’s natural resistance. Breakfast plus Peak 456 Growing Up Milk helps children get more nourishment. We are promoting the nutritional well-being of growing children with our recent Children’s Day activities” Imoh said.