What Happens When Teenagers Don't Eat Breakfast?

by Kristie Brown

    Many parents have to remind their teenagers repeatedly to finish their homework, to clean their rooms and to go to bed at a decent hour. So trying to coax your teen into eating breakfast can feel like another futile attempt in an ongoing battle of wills. Approach your teens when they are at their most receptive and alert and have a heart-to-heart about how much they’ll benefit from a good breakfast. Then make sure that their favorite breakfast foods are available when they are at their most irritable and pressed for time.

    When your teen squabbles with you and insists that he doesn’t have time to eat because he has to study until the last possible minute, remind him that kids who eat breakfast typically perform better in their classes. Make your squabbler a nutrient-rich breakfast, such as egg whites scrambled with dry ranch seasoning on whole-wheat toast or a tortilla so you give his brain and body the energy to work at its optimum ability. Peanut butter is another option, particularly when it’s spread on a toasted English muffin and topped with sliced bananas or other fruit; and with this option, you’ll meet three of the USDA’s MyPlate recommendation for grains, proteins and fruit. Offer a low-fat yogurt drink or skim milk and you’ll score a dairy requirement, too. Don’t flinch if your teen pulls out the previous night’s leftovers of spaghetti Bolognese or chicken cutlets and vegetables for breakfast. The primary goal is to get your kids to eat.

    The desire to lose weight is one of the reasons teens skip breakfast, particularly teenage girls. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who skip breakfast are likely to weigh more than children who don’t, even when the teens eating breakfast consume more daily calories than those who skip breakfast. A healthy morning meal sets the nutrition tone for the day, so when your teen is complaining about her weight, be understanding, but explain that she is sabotaging herself by not eating. Offer healthy breakfast options such as yogurt with a little bit of granola mixed in for texture and fiber. If your teen loves cereal, help her choose a low-sugar, low-fat option and allow her to choose fruit that is sliced and added for a little extra sweetness. And for the teen who loathes breakfast food, assure her that it’s okay to have a slice of turkey, tomato or low-fat cheese on an English muffin or whole wheat bagel. She’ll be full throughout the morning and less likely to eat a big lunch or sugary snacks when she gets home.

    Your teenager’s body clock is often not in sync with the school district’s clock. Many teens naturally fall asleep later in the evening and then aren’t ready to get up when the alarm rings. Even though your teen needs the extra sleep, teens who skip breakfast often don’t receive the right amount of vitamins and minerals, making them quite grumpy. Lest you send out a teen who remains grumpy all day, make sure that he grabs breakfast, even if it’s on the go. Packaged breakfast tacos with scrambled egg, beans, potatoes and cheese are easily microwaved for 45 to 60 seconds and give him a protein-rich breakfast that he can eat as he walks out the door. A healthy banana-bran or gingerbread muffin provides a dense breakfast that is even more nutrient rich if you can force an apple or pear in the other hand. And for the kid who likes a nice, tall glass of milk, make him a low-fat yogurt smoothie that’s filled with fruit and maybe even a vegetable or two.

    If your teen needs a hearty breakfast for a heavy school schedule or athletics, have him help you make a casserole that’s loaded with egg whites, turkey sausage, low-fat cheese and chopped vegetables that is served on a slice of whole wheat toast. If his practice is an early morning one, create a healthy trail mix instead that contains nuts and dried fruit so he can pack some protein before he hits the field.

    About the Author

    Kristie Brown is a publisher, writer and editor. She has contributed to magazines, textbooks and online publications. Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

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