BREAKFAST is a meal that many people take for granted, or in some cases ignore. Yet research shows that what we eat at breakfast can have a significant impact on our nutrient intake and our performance throughout the morning. Nevertheless, research concluded in 1994 indicated that 15 per cent of primary school children in Hong Kong were skipping breakfast and that 35 per cent of primary school students have breakfast away from home. Another study conducted in 1991 showed that only about 70 per cent of adults were eating breakfast daily. The incidence of missing breakfast tends to rise with age. For example, 18 per cent of Japanese high school students regularly miss breakfast while only four per cent of children in elementary school go without a morning meal. Speaking at the recent Hong Kong Breakfast Week's breakfast nutrition seminar, Director of Health Margaret Chan called on Hong Kong people to practise the healthy lifestyle of eating nutritious breakfast, as this meal is an important one to provide a substantial proportion of nutrients and energy for morning activity. 'Studies show that the consumption of breakfast is more likely to be associated with more favourable blood lipid levels and lower body mass index,' Dr Chan said. 'Local surveys, however, reveal that many adults and children in Hong Kong are not eating breakfast.' Noting that there were limitations and restrictions on the choice of healthy food when eating away from home, Dr Chan said such a habit would often lead to consumption of high fat, high cholesterol foods and lack of fibre intake. An unbalanced diet could be a major contributing factor in the increase in chronic diseases like diabetes and heart diseases. Presenting a study on the 10 most popular breakfasts in Hong Kong, Dr Georgia Guldan, lecturer in Biochemistry at the Chinese University, reported a change in eating habits. 'In Hong Kong, diets have changed in the last 30 to 40 years. People in Hong Kong have begun to embrace a so-called 'Western diet'. Whereas previously, breakfast foods included mostly traditional items such as Chinese pastries, noodles, porridge and dim sum, more and more people are now eating western style breakfasts with eggs, meat, white bread and cereals.' Studies show that people who eat breakfast are more likely to have adequate intakes of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre and lower intakes of fat and cholesterol than those who skip it. Vitamins and minerals which are missed at breakfast are not generally compensated for later in the day. Nutritionists agree a healthy breakfast should be low in fat and cholesterol and high in complex carbohydrates. It should also provide about one quarter of our daily requirement for calories and nutrients. Nutritionist Julie Howden of Kellogg said: 'In addition to replenishing energy stores and contributing to the control of body weight, breakfast plays an especially important role for children. 'Studies conducted in the US, Europe and Australia have shown that children provided with a nutritious and balanced breakfast may have higher classroom performance levels.' Children who skip breakfast can lose concentration easily during the morning.