Published in El Pais, 29 September 2018.
In a study of eating and healthy lifestyles, of which I am a part, it is shown that the habits and myths are strong when it comes to choosing what to eat. Many children and adolescents do not eat breakfast, with a variation between 20% and 44%, depending on the school year, being generally higher in high school. A prevalent myth among teenagers is “if I do not eat breakfast I will lose weight” and with this idea many do not want to eat anything at recess either. But as the social influence in recess is so strong, many end up buying something in the school shop and those who avoid this, isolate themselves so as not to have the pressure, affecting their social life in such an important stage.
Another widely used myth is “breakfast to fool the stomach”, many eat only one fruit, or a cup of milk / tea, or just one bread, which does not compensate for a day of studies. Among the most common habits is that their parents and they fall asleep late and usually do not give them time. Children and adolescents should sleep 10 hours since sleep is an important factor for growth. Only 67% of children up to 9 years old meet these hours drastically down to averages of 2.5% among those aged 12-17 years.
Another common habit among parents is not having breakfast but giving money for recess as a way to compensate for the lack of food at the start of the day. On average 51% of children and adolescents take money to school to buy their snack. Many were never educated on choosing their food and in fact in primary school they are instructed by their parents on what to buy each day. With this, recess makes up for the missing breakfast. You can see options like donuts, sausages, and hamburgers; and to drink, the most seen are the Coca-Cola mini, dairy based juices etc. Unhealthy options that can bring problems such as overweight, diabetes or high blood pressure, which then means high costs to the health system or the pockets of people.