The Case For Eating Breakfast
The morning alarm sounds, and your sleepy-eyed teen rolls over, hits the snooze button, and dozes off to revisit the Sandman. By the time the alarm sounds again, your child is only minutes away from catching the school bus. He gets dressed, brushes his teeth, and bolts out the door. Missing from the routine: breakfast. For many teens, this morning routine has become a familiar, but troubling, one.
And yet, approximately 8 to 12 percent of all school-aged kids skip breakfast, says William Cochran, M.D., FAAP, a past member of the American Academy of Pediatric’s Committee on Nutrition and vice chairman of the Department of Pediatrics of the Geisinger Clinic in Danville, Pa. By the time kids enter adolescence, as many as 20 to 30 percent of them have completely given up the morning meal.
Why Teens Say No to Breakfast
Children of all ages have many excuses for skipping breakfast. Many older teens are busy until late into the night with homework, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs. They go to bed late, then get up and rush off to school, too frantic to eat.
Breaking the Fast Is Healthy
In reality however, skipping breakfast is more likely to cause weight gain than it is to prevent it. A 2008 study in the journal Pediatrics found that adolescents who ate breakfast daily had a lower body mass index than teens who never ate breakfast or only on occasion.
Eating breakfast also has ramifications on school performance. “Study after study shows that kids who eat breakfast function better,” says Marcie Beth Schneider, M.D., FAAP, a member of the AAP’s Committee on Nutrition and an adolescent medicine physician in Greenwich, Conn. “They do better in school, and have better concentration and more energy.”
So how do you get your teen to chow down in the A.M.? Start by setting an earlier bedtime, which helps ensure that your child will get up in time to eat something. Then make breakfast a priority in your home. Ideally, the whole family can sit down together for breakfast, a practice that should start well before the teen years.
“Families that eat together tend to eat healthier,” Dr. Cochran says. “It also gives parents the chance to act as role models in terms of nutrition and eating behaviors.”
Read more: The Case for Eating Breakfast