Most parents know that breakfast is very important to give their children a solid start on the day. But getting kids to eat a nutritious breakfast often requires some creating thinking. Making a truly healthy breakfast can be troublesome for parents who have to hurry off to work. Sometimes they just give children bread with jam and milk, a bowl of noodles or a steamed bun from a convenience store. Hardly the fare to whet a child’s enthusiasm. Zhang Zhe, a local father, does it differently. He prepares a homemade breakfast for his 8-year-old daughter every morning. Pictures of the meals posted on his WeChat site evoked a chorus of “wows!” from viewers. Zhang’s breakfasts aren’t boring and they also aren’t as time-consuming as many might imagine.
Sometimes breakfast is served on the plate shaped like a sunflower. It is made with cereal and grapefruit. A clock figure is made with pieces of banana. Or breakfast may be in the shape of an angry bird made with watermelon, oranges and grapes. Zhang’s noodles come in the shape of an orange fish shape. These entertaining breakfasts intrigue Zhang’s daughter and cause her to eat the whole plate of food, sending her off to school full of energy. “I used to just serve her bread or plain noodles, but she showed no appetite for breakfast,” said Zhang, who works for a trading company. “So I decided to make breakfast entertaining for her. Food simply bought from the shops simply doesn’t have enough nutrition, and I worry about food safety.” Zhang said he read nutrition books to make sure his daughter was getting the right foods she needed at the start of the day. “The appearance of food is important in enticing children to eat well,” he said. “My hobby of photography helps me there. I try to make breakfast colorful and enticing. Something surprising every morning.” Zhang said he has been amazed by the reactions on WeChat. “I started posting pictures of each day’s breakfast there in March and got mountains of favorable comments,” he said. “That gave me motivation to continue with these breakfasts and also offer tips on a public WeChat account I opened a few weeks ago.” He said the most common question he is asked is how much time it takes to produce a creative breakfast. Many parents said they didn’t have the patience and skill to do what he did. “It is not as difficult as they think,” he said. Zhang usually does some preparation work on weekends for some of the breakfasts. He often follows traditional Chinese medicine concepts in choosing the menus. In autumn, for example, he cooks barley soup, which helps nourish the body as chillier temperatures set in. Drinks prepared in advanced are carefully refrigerated. “I buy ingredients during the weekends and do some of the preparation work the night before if the menu calls for something a bit more complicated,” he said. “On the day itself, it doesn’t take me more than 20 minutes to prepare her breakfast.” The meals are not only good for his daughter but also for himself. It’s become a challenging hobby. “The biggest challenge is thinking of new creative breakfasts,” he said.
Wu Jingling, a mother with a 9-year-old son, said her boy has become taller and stronger since she started preparing good breakfasts for him a year ago. “He used to eat a steamed bun on the way of school, but I found that he lacked energy and had a poor appetite,” she said. “If lunch at school was something he didn’t like, he hardly ate anything all day. So I decided to get up a little earlier and make breakfast for him.” She, too, does a bit of preparation work the night before, like washing fruits and vegetables. “In the morning,” she said, “every course is made quickly and put onto the plate in a creative arrangement.” Wu has posted pictures of her son’s breakfast on her WeChat account to help friends frustrated by their children’s lack of interest in eating before going to school. Her son always reminds her to take a photo of his meal before he digs in. “Compared with breakfasts bought in convenience stores, my meals add fresh vegetables and fruit into my son’s diet,” she said. “Previously, he didn’t eat much of either of those foods. And sometimes, he filled up on snacks after school because he was so hungry, and then he had no appetite for supper.”
Wu said fixing a nutritious breakfast becomes rather simple with a little practice and planning. “It’s a creative exercise for me,” she said. “I am always looking out for new ideas.” Doctors applaud the efforts of parents like Zhang and Wu and wish more parents followed their example. “Skipping breakfast can have an adverse effect on a child’s ability to learn,” said Tang Xiaoping, a pediatrician at Shanghai Ren’ai Hospital. “After a night’s sleep, a young body and brain need a good supply of glucose. Without that, a child’s brain can’t operate very effectively and will have difficulty concentrating.” The typical Chinese breakfast is heavy on starch but light on fruit and vegetables. Tang said the recommended breakfast for children should include four types of food: cereal, such as a steamed bun, noodles, bread, rice or corn; protein like eggs and meats; dairy, and fruit and vegetables. “Compared with food bought from stores, a homemade breakfast is less oily, fresher and of higher quality,” she added.
• Egg dumplings with shrimp, and tofu soup with spinach
20 grams of shrimp, one egg, 25 grams of spinach, 50 grams of tofu, 5 grams of pork
Prepare a stuffing of shrimp, pork and seasonings the night before. In the morning, mix one egg with some water. Oil a pan and make an omelette, using the stuffing preparation as filling. Steam for 8 minutes. Wash the tofu and put into water. Boil for one minute, then add spinach and some seasoning.
• Chicken porridge and eggs
50 grams of chicken, 15 grams of rice, 15 grams of green vegetable and two boiled eggs
Cook the rice until it becomes a porridge. Chop the chicken into pieces and add to the porridge. Add seasoning and cooked green vegetables. Serve with boiled eggs.