Many teens start their day without a nutritious breakfast -- or event without any breakfast. In fact, research finds that by the time kids turn 13, about 20 to 30 percent have given up the morning meal, and about 60 percent of teens and young adults aged 18 to 24 years skip breakfast four times per week.
So what’s the big deal? Well, it turns out that breakfast is a pretty powerful meal, boasting several benefits for teens.
One study in the journal Pediatrics found teens who ate breakfast had a lower body mass index – the measure of an individual’s weight status related to height – than peers in a comparison group who never ate breakfast or only did so erratically.
Many other research studies have tied breakfast to better focus, improved attention, higher academic scores and optimal nutritional status. So if your teen typically refuses breakfast, try these strategies to help your child reap the benefits of the most important meal of the day:
Talk about breakfast. I talk about how breakfast can enhance performance. There’s even research suggesting that teens who eat breakfast have better breath. Explore your teen’s personal priorities and connect those to the benefits of breakfast.
Reset the clock. Sleep is precious. It’s a time when teens grow (growth hormone peaks during sleep), and getting adequate rest is one of the best ways to ensure optimal functioning during the day. But while the National Sleep Foundation recommends that teens get nine to nine and a half hours of sleep per night, the average sleep duration is between seven and seven and one-quarter hours.
Sports, studies, work or social events, in addition to the school day, may make it difficult for teens to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Adding to the challenge is the change adolescents experience in their body clock rhythm. The body clock shifts to a later time frame in the teen years, often resulting in later bedtimes and difficulty getting up in the morning.
Encourage your teen to reset her sleep and wake times, if possible. Getting up earlier, by even five or 10 minutes, can help create space for a quick breakfast.
Prepare for breakfast ahead of time. Many seasoned parents will tell you that a little nighttime prep will pay dividends the next day. This is true for packing lunches and for setting up a successful breakfast. Try to make breakfast foods in bulk and freeze them for later. Homemade pancakes, waffles and French toast all freeze well and are quick to reheat. High-fiber muffins, quick breads or baked scrambled egg muffins are healthy, homemade and keep well in the fridge or freezer.
Have some grab-and-go options. One of the fastest breakfast items on the planet is the smoothie. Throw frozen fruit, high-protein Greek yogurt and milk or 100 percent juice into a blender, sprinkle in some flax meal or Chia seeds and blend. Of course, there are all kinds of smoothie recipes to explore. Stock up on a variety of frozen fruit and you can make a different flavor for each day of the week.
Offer a snack instead. Your teen may not be hungry first thing in the morning, but eventually he will feel the pangs of hunger. Send along healthy options he can keep in his backpack and munch on between morning classes. Some favorites include trail mix, nuts, jerky, dried fruit, granola bars, dry cereal and cheese.