Teens and Breakfast

Teens and breakfast don’t seem to go together, As a teacher and tutor I am appalled at the number of teenagers who don’t eat breakfast. Worse, there are some who don’t even eat lunch. During school their energy is so low they have trouble staying awake and thinking. Either they are not sharing this information or parents are so busy they are not aware of their teen’s poor eating habits.

Feeding teens can be a challenge. Their needs are different from younger children. Teens need to be taught to make healthy choices and appreciate good food. Part of the problem stems from advertising. Images of models make them believe they’re too fat when they’re not. A study in Pediatrics Suggests that teens who miss out on breakfast are actually more likely to be overweight. Breakfast eating teens tend to be more active. The quality of their diets and attitudes toward food is better.

Teens who skip breakfast have a tendency to overeat later in the day and grab high-fat snacks. Studies show that if they don’t eat in the morning they experience a drop in energy mid-morning. This has an impact on grades. In fact, teens who skip breakfast are more likely to be obese as adults. Obesity among children and adults is a growing problem in the U.S.

High school students spend more time in school. Many of these schools do not allow them to leave at lunch. They have more money and more exposure to vending machines. While vending machines aren’t always sources of unhealthy foods and drinks, combined with choices at the cafeteria create a diet of “junk food”. Many students do not opt for low-fat lunches according to a School Nutrition and Dietary Study.

The excuses for not eating breakfast include not having enough time or not being hungry early in the morning. Both of these are easily solved. First of all, parents must talk to their teens about the importance of nutrition and why skipping meals can be harmful to their health. Explain the negative side of not eating a proper diet. A Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital study discovered that students who eat breakfast have better grades and decreased absence and tardy rates.

Don’t let the excuses deter you from getting them to eat in the morning. Set expectations. You can set up a menu that consists of food to go. Some of the items you can include are: fruit and bran muffins, smoothies, granola, breakfast bars and drinks, fruit salad cups. There are even frozen breakfasts your teen can pop in the toaster and grab on the way out the door. All of these can be eaten “on the run” before school. There are really no excuses for teens not to eat some kind of breakfast.

Another idea worth trying is to get a nutrition break built into the school’s schedule. The high school where I taught for many years had a fifteen minute nutrition break at 9 AM. This worked well in a school of 2600 students. Students had a chance to get something to eat and boost their energy. Talk to the principal and the PTA, and see if something like this can be arranged for the following semester. It doesn’t mean extending the school day. It can be accomplished by shaving a few minutes off each period. It’s worth the try for healthier teens.

Getting your teen to eat right and not skip meals is crucial to their future well being. Eating breakfast is one way to help them get the essential nutrients they need to stay strong and healthy and do well in school. Get involved. Teen and breakfast really do go together.

Lois Bernstein is a former master teacher, adjunct professor, student teacher supervisor and curriculum developer. She is currently tutoring in reading, writing, study skills and math.

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