Obesity among school children is attracting the attention of the Health Ministry of Malaysia and the Minister of Health issued a rules to all school canteens all over the country that nasi lemak cannot be sold to school children. The school canteen operators argue, if they cannot sell nasi lemak, what should they sell to the school children? Nasi lemak has been the traditional breakfast for the Malays for centuries. Malays used to take rice cook with coconut milk which is known as nasi lemak with sambal of dried small fish known as ikan bilis as the main food for breakfast. Malays used to be farmers or fishermen and they need more carbohydrate in order to provide them the energy to do work. Nasi lemak provides the carbohydrate that the farmers and the fishermen need. Now not many Malays are farmers or fishermen. Most Malays are now working as government servants, professionals, and businessmen. They do not need that much carbohydrate as the farmers and fishermen needs. All children go to school but they do not need much carbohydrate as they do not use that much energy to do work. The habits of eating rice cook in coconut milk in the early morning as breakfast continue throughout the generations. It passes on from generation to generation and the habit of eating nasi lemak dies hard. Can we stop our children from eating nasi lemak at school by giving the rules that canteen operator cannot sell nasi lemak? Our children are used to eat nasi lemak and if they cannot buy nasi lemak from the school canteen, our children will buy nasi lemak from stalls outside the school. Can we stop the stall outside the school from selling nasi lemak? The government cannot stop people from eating nasi lemak and neither the government can stop people from selling nasi lemak. Rules to stop the school canteen operator from selling nasi lemak will not solve the problems of obesity among our children. The Health Ministry is pointing to only the habit of eating nasi lemak as the cause of obesity. What about the habit of eating mee or noodles? Rice and noodles are all carbohydrate and when taken in large quantity or more than what that person needs they will be converted into fat and stored in the body leading to obesity.
Is eating nasi lemak and noodles in the early morning is the only causes of obesity? Rules will not solve our problem in preventing the increasing number of our school children from becoming obese. Obesity is caused by our wrong lifestyle. Even many Malaysians adult are obese. Wrong lifestyles are caused by our wrong belief and mental outlook. When we have wrong belief and mental outlook, we will have wrong lifestyles. Because of wrong lifestyles we have both emotional and physical stress. Stress causes us to take more carbohydrate and sugar in our diets. With foods that contain more carbohydrates and sugar we tend to be calmer. School children who are experiencing stress will like to eat more foods that contain sugar and carbohydrate such as ice cream, chocolates, nasi lemak and carbonated drinks. When we take foods that contain more sugar and carbohydrate such as nasi lemak at one time, the body will produce more insulin at a time. The greater amount of insulin produce will causes the extra sugar in the body to be quickly converted into glucose and stored in the body and because of this less or no sugar can be taken to the brain. When our brain do not receives sufficient amount of sugar, we tend to be sleepy and loose our concentration. It is true that it is not good for our children to take foods that contain plenty of sugar or carbohydrate for their breakfast. It is very important for our children to take breakfast in the early morning before they go to schools but not with foods such as nasi lemak, roti canai and noodles. We prepare our children to go to school very early in the morning as schools start in Malaysia at 7.30 am and most of children will not have the time to take a good breakfast at home. Our children have to take their breakfast in the school canteen that sells nasi lemak and noodles. We made our children to eat the wrong food for breakfast at the school canteen, because we made them to go to school very early in the morning. Will all the school canteens in Malaysia provide good breakfast for our children? Canteen operator will not think of selling good food to our children. They are business minded peoples who think more of money than selling good food to our children. If we want our children to have good breakfast before they go to school, we must allow them to have breakfast at homes with their parents. Our school must start not at 7.30am but at 8.00 am and parents will start work at 8.30am. Ample time must be given to all Malaysians to have their breakfast at homes rather than at the school or office canteen.
What is a good breakfast? A good breakfast is to have fruits or fruit juices such apples, bananas, oranges or papaya as our main drink in the early morning. Fruit juices will have to clean and nourish our body. It helps to stabilises the acidic and alkaline balance in our body. We should have foods that contain protein such as half boiled eggs, bakes beans, roasted chicken, lamb or beef. We should have foods that contain fibres such as cereals, oats, and corn flakes with milk. We can have toasted brown bread spread with honey or fruit jam. On addition to that we may have a cup of green tea with no honey. Does Malaysian have such foods for their breakfast? Most of us and including our children are leading very stressful lifestyles. Nowadays we needs to do our things as quickly as we could and everything we have to do as fast as possible. We ignore our breakfast because we have to be early at work which starts at 7.30am or we wake up very late in the morning and we have no time for breakfast. Because of this both parents and children are having their breakfast at the school and office canteen. What do they eat at the canteen? Whatever is available at the canteen, nasi lemak and noodles and teh tarik and hot coffee for a drink? Very few Malaysians are having breakfast at home and if they do they will eat either nasi lemak, noodles or fried flour with onions and ikan bilis. We have to admit that most Malaysians are not having good food for their breakfast and eating the wrong food for their breakfast at the school and office canteen is one of the major reasons why we are not very productive either at schools or in the offices.
What do most Malaysians eat for their lunch and dinner? Many Malaysians do not know what constitutes a good lunch and dinner. Most Malaysians will take their lunch at the office canteen and again they have to eat what is available at the canteen. Usually most Malaysians will eat a plate full of white rice and with dishes usually fried curry fish or chicken and fried vegetables with gravy. All the foods taken by most Malaysian are fried chicken or fish with curry or coconut milk and fried vegetables. Most or our food are fried cook in vegetable oil and seldom we ate foods that are boiled, steamed or baked. When we fried our food with vegetable oil, the oil, although unsaturated but under high temperature will become saturated. When the oil has become saturated it becomes unhealthy to the body. It can become plague in the blood vessels of our body and lead to an obstruction of blood flow. The presence of plagues in the blood vessels can lead to stroke in many parts of the body, particularly in the brain.
Prof. Dr. Nasoha SaabinMay 2011
Dean of Faculty of Optometry
International University College of Technology Twintech
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia