My interview with a Nutritionist : Healthy breakfast for kids
When I was away in Perth recently, I got an email inviting me to interview Cereal Partners Worldwide’s Nutrition Manager based in Sydney, Nilani Sritharan, who’ll be in Singapore for two days as a speaker for a symposium with healthcare professionals, and share it on my site.
Nilani’s touring around the region too to share her expertise on how and why healthy breakfast is important, especially for kids.
Being a parent of two myself, I’d sure want to know more about what’s nutritious for kids. And I’m sure lots of other parents would love to find out about it too.
I checked the calendar, and hey, I’d be back in Singapore just in time for the interview.
And so I said yes. I interviewed Nilani, and had a nice chat with the lovely ladies from the PR agency and Nestlé.
And, here’re some of my questions :
Leonny : We’ve always heard about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Can you share with me some of the reasons?
Nilani : When kids (us included) start their day with a balanced breakfast, they can concentrate better at school. They’re more alert and it prevents them from snacking. And if for example, they have whole grain cereals for breakfast, the fibre content combined with energy from complex carbohydrates also keeps the child full for a longer time.
Leonny : You mentioned ‘whole grains’. What is it really all about?
Nilani : Whole grains consist of 3 parts, a fibre-rich outer layer, a nutrient-packed inner area and a central starchy part (which contains energy, carbohydrates and some B vitamins).
A whole grain (eg. corn, wheat, rice, oats) has all 3 parts intact, while a refined grain (eg. white rice) has had the outer and inner part removed during processing. This is why whole-grains are packed with more vitamins, minerals and fibre.
A whole grain diet for breakfast helps provide kids (and adults) the energy to support their mental and physical activities throughout the day.
Leonny : So what do you think should be included in a ‘healthy breakfast’?
Nilani : It should contain some complex carbohydrates for energy (eg. bread, cereals, rice), dairy foods rich in calcium (for healthier bones and teeth), fruits, and a drink to keep kids hydrated and alert. Children get the nutrients they’re supposed to get in their breakfast, and if they skip breakfast, they won’t make up for those nutrients later during the day.
Leonny : Since my daughter started nursery last year, she never misses her breakfast (mostly because her class starts at 11.30am and we have enough time for breakfast). The problem is, many parents feel they’re too busy to prepare a wholesome breakfast for the kids (especially if their kids start school early in the morning). What’s your advice?
Nilani : Busy parents can consider going for fruits and whole grain breakfast cereals served with milk. It’s relatively fast to prepare and it’s nutritious for the kids.
Leonny: Some people are afraid of putting on weight if they have some heavy breakfast. What’s your view?
Nilani : When you skip breakfast you’ll make up for it throughout the rest of the day. You’ll most likely eat more at lunch, suppertime and in between. Everyone should go for a balanced three or four meals a day.
It all comes down to how much calories you get and how much calories you burn. What you have throughout the day is more important than ‘when’ you’re having it.
Leonny : How about kids who are not too interested in eating fruits, vegetables or whole grains?
Nilani : When parents enjoy it, the kids are likely to follow. And according to research, you just need to have them available, and after a while the kids will most likely give it a try. Have cut fruits available, serve unsalted popcorn, etc. Involve kids in food preparation (eg. let them wash the vegetables)
Leonny : Not many families naturally incorporate whole grains in their diet. When I’m in a supermarket for example, I’d automatically grab a loaf of white bread. What are some of the things we can do to start getting more whole grains in our daily diet?
Nilani : It’s all about changing your habit. You can try :
a. Swapping white rice for brown rice (start by mixing white rice with brown rice)
b. Switching to whole meal noodles
c. Going for whole meal bread
d. Starting the day with whole grain breakfast cereal
Nestle Breakfast Cereals now come with the ‘Whole Grain Seal’ (the big tick at the top right of the box) which makes it easier for parents to spot which ones are whole grains.
Nilani and I continued on chatting with the rest of the ladies about random stuff after the interview. It was all nice and good.
And after the interview was over, I did think about my own family’s diet and how I should start introducing more whole grains too.
We all like Honey Stars, so getting Nestle’s new whole grain Honey Stars is an easy decision!
But when it comes to bread and rice, I admit I’ve always been a ‘white bread’ and a ‘white rice’ person, so for me to start going for grain, I know it’d need to be a conscious effort from me.
To occasionally choose a loaf of wholemeal bread. To cook brown rice once in a while for a change.
Because regardless of what I personally like and dislike, I do feel that when mommies start believing in the goodness of grains, so will the rest of the family.