Don't neglect breakfast

How often do you hear someone say, “Oh, I don't do breakfast” as if it was something to boast about?

Don't neglect breakfast

How often do you hear someone say, “Oh, I don't do breakfast” as if it was something to boast about? I was horrified the other morning at Jean-Luc's school. One of the little girls was munching a large double chocolate brownie and, when I asked if this was an early break snack, she responded “No, it's breakfast”. It appeared that all she had had that morning was a glass of water – I am hoping that truly wasn't the case, but …..

Breakfast has been much maligned by people who have convinced themselves that they cannot bear to eat so early or who would rather stay in bed for another half hour – and only throw down a cup of coffee or tea or one of those “liquid” breakfasts that have appeared in recent times. And if parents don't eat breakfast, how on earth can they expect the children to eat breakfast…much behaviour is copied from the parents' example, as we know.

Breakfast has also been the subject of quite a lot of research, some of it learned, some anecdotal – but it doesn't take a university degree to work out that if you haven't eaten since the previous evening (and most young children won't have eaten for fully 12 hours), to start the day on nothing is going to deplete your energy levels and your brain function.

Any teacher will confirm that children who have a good breakfast study better, get better results and are frequently much better behaved than those whose household neglects breakfast. Further proof comes from the many school breakfast programmes running throughout the country. Further, it may not have been researched scientifically, but it figures that adults who don't have breakfast are unlikely to function at less than optimum levels either and when the mid-morning “brain fade” comes, are liable to grab something like a chocolate bar or sugary drink to boost, however temporarily, the low blood sugar.

So, let's accept that breakfast is an important meal and decide that it's going to assume or reassume its rightful place in the household. I've got some thoughts:

· Set the table the night before, putting everything out you are going to need…cereals, cutlery, plates and cups, sugar, salt and pepper, Vegemite, honey, marmalade etc. That means if you do miss the alarm, at least one thing doesn't need to be done. It also means that if the young members of the family are up first, they have a head start.

· Plan your breakfasts, whether it's a cooked one or just cereal and fruit, so that you know what you're going to do when you reach the kitchen…that will save time too.

· Sit down to eat, don't stand up.

· If there are young ones in your home don't let Dad disappear behind a newspaper, it's a great time for a chat.

· Try not to be the mother running around like a scalded cat – I know that's probably asking too much, well at least it is in my home – but kids need to see Mum and Dad eat a good healthful breakfast – to lead by example as it were.

· And if you can, don't rush breakfast; it's important for a whole host of reasons, not least of which is making sure everyone goes out with sufficient good fuel for their day's activities.

Healthful breakfast eating options

· Vary breakfasts…cereals, fruit, yoghurt, toast, porridge (soak it the night before; it tastes better and creams up better); whatever you're having, keep it interesting. Cereals should be high fibre and low sugar – however much the family yells for the high sugar varieties. Fibre is bulkier and its effects last longer than sugar, which gives a quick rush and then fades fast.

· Make your own muesli – there are lots of recipes for various types and they can be dry or wet and have a variety of flavours…and it will save you money as opposed to the supermarket shelf cereals. Both Coconut Bircher Muesli and Coconut Muesli are tasty variations.

· If you decide on a cooked breakfast – maybe just at weekends if you really don't have time during the week, don't neglect baked beans – they make a good, easy breakfast as do eggs which are a complete meal in a package - and there couldn't be anything easier to make, whether boiled, poached or scrambled. For a change you could try Homemade Beans ‘n Bacon or Breakfast Pork Sausages With Boston Beans. Sweetcorn fritters are something else children like.

· Grill bacon and sausages rather than frying. Grilled fish is good for breakfast too, although it might take some persuading the young! Think about last night's leftover mince and serve it hot on toast. In season, grilled or roast tomatoes on toast make a nourishing start and to give them a special flavour we love Roast Tomatoes With Sumac And Pepper.

· Bananas on bread or toast, or with cereals keep young and older engines well fired up. French toast is always a favourite and kids love pancakes…try Buckwheat Pancakes With Scrambled Egg And Hot Smoked Salmon – although the smoked salmon would be more for a special brunch (you could always suggest it for Mother's Day!). If you have trouble persuading the family to eat porridge, try oatmeal Flapjacks

And if that's not sufficient inspiration for you, check this month's book reviews for a selection of books written around breakfast with a host of great ideas.

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