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The Importance of Breakfast

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The Importance of Breakfast Works Cited Not Included They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet in
reality it is the meal most neglected by teenagers.

The definition of breakfast originates from the verbs ‘break’ and
‘fast’ (Turner, 1998) meaning to end the long overnight fasting
period. For several years, teenagers have been bombarded with
information about the important role that breakfast plays in their
diet. Many nutritionists around the world argue undoubtedly that
breakfast is the most important meal of the day (Deady, 2004).
Moreover, research indicates that breakfast can give children nearly
half of their daily requirements of many essential vitamins and
minerals (Author unknown, 2001). However, it has become increasingly
evident that teenagers are adopting an unhealthy trend of neglecting
the first meal of the day. Such disregard can have several physical
and mental effects on a teenager during the puberty years, and can
even pose long-term consequences on their health once they have
reached adulthood.

Many would argue that neglecting breakfast would be defined as
skipping the meal entirely, however this isn’t always the case. To
neglect breakfast relates to depriving the body of the right types or
quantities of food recommended to eat for that meal. In a survey[1]
based on the breakfast habits of teenagers, results indicated that 75%
of teens interviewed eat breakfast on a regular basis (Appendix 2 –
Table 1). Such results would mislead many into thinking that there is
no emerging trend of neglect in breakfast habits. However, while the
survey indicates that the majority of teens do not skip breakfast,
there is evidence to conclude that they are not eating sufficient
amounts of the foods that contain the recommended vitamins and
minerals necessary for optimum health and functioning throughout the
day.

According to the United States Dietary Association (USDA), in order
for teens to absorb their daily requirements of vitamins and minerals,
teenagers should be eating a balanced breakfast. They suggest eating a
meal consisting of 1 serving of fruit (100% fruit juice or ¾ cup of
fruit), 1 slice of toast, 30g of fortified cereal and ½ cup of milk.
The USDA also encourages that these recommendations increase in
proportion as the teenager ages (Webster, 1999). As the types of food
teenagers are accustomed to may vary from culture to culture,
nutritionist suggest eating foods that will provide teenagers with a
balanced amount of Carbohydrates, Fibre, Calcium, Iron, B Vitamins and
Folate (Author unknown, 2001). It is foods containing these vitamins
and minerals that will provide them with enough energy to function
properly throughout the day.

The survey highlighted that of the majority of teens that do eat
breakfast, 40% eat only a piece of toast, 29% eat cereal, 13% eat only
a piece of fruit and 18% eat other types of food (ranging simply from
a tub of yoghurt to fried fatty foods) (Appendixes 2 – Figure 1).
While these teens do eat breakfast, they neglect the importance of
eating the foods that would otherwise provide them with the necessary
vitamins and minerals beneficial for their age. Most meals are very
small and therefore would not provide the required energy for
continued concentration throughout the day at school. From the data
collected it would appear that teenagers have a lack of awareness of
the importance of breakfast. However, the result from the survey
revealed that teenagers are quite aware of the importance of breakfast
as 94% of those interviewed (Appendixes 2 – Figure 2) agreed with
dieticians on the statement “…Breakfast is the most important meal of
the day”. Therefore, while teenagers do acknowledge breakfast as the
most important meal of the day, they may neglect this meal as they
lack the skills beneficial in choosing and preparing a breakfast that
satisfies their requirements.

There are several contributing factors that influence the type of
foods that teenagers choose for breakfast. This can include things
such as time, knowledge, skills, money or weight. The surveys findings
highlighted that the most common reason teenagers’ skipped breakfast
was because they didn’t have enough time to prepare the anything to
eat (Appendix 2 – Figure 3). Yet, 63% of the teenagers that provided
this excuse acknowledged that their reason was not good enough to
skipping the meal entirely. 100% of those that skipped breakfast due
to poor time management agreed with nutritionist that breakfast is the
most important meal of the day (Appendix 2 – Figure 4-5). From these
results it is assumed that if the majority of teens skip breakfast due
to poor time management skills, the majority of teens would neglect
breakfast for the same reasons. The survey also highlighted that 31%
of teens skip breakfast because they do not feel hungry and a further
31% because they cannot be bothered enough to prepare something to eat
(Appendix 2 - Figure 3). The survey also found that 62% of these
teenagers recognise that such an excuse should be no reason to
neglecting this meal. Such findings indicate that not only do teens
recognise the importance of breakfast, but also the excuses they
provided where not justified for skipping breakfast. This not only
shows little regard for their individual nutrition but also low
motivation when concerning areas with food.

According to the Australian National Nutrition Survey (1995), people
who ate breakfast had much better overall diets than people who
skipped breakfast. Teenagers who develop healthy breakfast habits
early in life are more likely to maintain a balanced diet in their
adulthood. Moreover, it is assumed that if a person neglects breakfast
while still acknowledging and understanding its importance, they will
hold just as much disregard for the rest of their diet or other meals
throughout the day.

What teenagers need to understand is how breakfast can affect their
health in their teens and in the future. Researchers at the Harvard
Medical Department found that hungry children are more likely to have
behavioural and academic problems then children who get enough to eat
(Murphy, 1998). In contrast, the State of Minnesota Breakfast Study
(Author unknown, 1997) found that students who ate a healthy breakfast
had a general increase in math grades and reading scores, increased
student attention, reduced nurse visits and improved student
behaviours. Additionally, a study at Oxford University (Warren, 1998)
compared low Glycemic Index (GI) breakfasts to high GI breakfasts and
found that teenagers who ate high GI breakfasts (sugary breakfasts)
tended to eat more at lunch. Therefore indicating that a healthy
breakfast (low GI breakfast) could be an important factor in
controlling adolescent obesity. Such scientific data highlights the
relationship there exists between breakfast and the health of
teenagers. It is more then evident that eating breakfast can
dramatically affect a teenagers short and long-term health. For a
teenager to perform at their optimum health, they should practice
healthy breakfast habits while ensuring that each meal satisfies all
their requirements of vitamins and minerals.

In conclusion, it is clearly evident that breakfast is the most
important meal of our day. Neglecting this meal can stop teenagers
from reaching their optimum health peak. Yet, while teenagers are
quite aware of the importance of breakfast they lack the knowledge as
to what the short and long term benefits are. Moreover, they are just
as unaware of the physical and mental consequences of neglecting
breakfast can have. Emphasising the benefits that breakfast can have
on a teenager’s energy level, stamina and alertness could motivate
many to practise healthier breakfast habits.


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[1] This survey was conducted at Windaroo Valley High School and
consisted of 50 students ranging from ages 14-18. The survey was
conducted to decipher the normal eating habits of teenagers in
relation to breakfast. See Appendix 1

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