It’s a familiar scene: The alarm clock goes off, the snooze button is hit twice, and all of a sudden your teenager only has twenty minutes to be out the door for school. Unfortunately, the last thing on their mind in the morning is probably one of the most important: Breakfast.
Everyone has heard that age old phrase, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Yet, almost 30 percent of teenagers skip their jump-start meal. Why is it the most important meal? Study after study finds that children who eat breakfast eat a generally healthier diet the rest of the day. One study in particular found that adolescents who ate breakfast daily had a lower Body- Mass- Index (BMI), an indicator of healthy weight.
Other than overall health, breakfast eaters have improved school performance. A child’s developing brain relies on regular food intake. Going for long periods of time - from dinner the night before to lunch the next day - without food can cause fatigue, trouble concentrating and behavioral problems. Children who eat breakfast have been observed to be less anxious, more focused, and learn better at school.
Why is it so difficult for children and teenagers to eat breakfast in the morning? It may be lack of time in the morning, or that their body’s clock isn’t quite in sync to be hungry at 7 a.m. Whatever the case, having strategies for common breakfast conundrums can help your kids become breakfast eaters:
They’re short on time in the morning ...
Something that can be made the night before is the best option for those on a time crunch. Try overnight oatmeal: Dry Oats mixed with yogurt, milk, chopped fruit and nuts, then refrigerated in a mug overnight is a DELICIOUS, health, “make ahead” meal. The combinations are endless, and the kids can help make it.
They aren’t hungry yet ...
A big meal isn’t appetizing if you’re just not ready for it, but good nutrition can come in liquid form. A smoothie made of yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, ice, and a splash of milk is vitamin and power packed, but more appealing than sitting down to a big plate. Another option Carnation® Instant Breakfast™ powder mixed with a glass of milk. Lots of vitamin and extra protein to keep them from feeling hungry
You need something that can be transported ...
Sloshing around a bowl of cereal in the back seat isn’t really an option. Breakfast does not need to be difficult, a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat bread hits three of your major food groups and can be easily eaten in the car. Other options? A granola bar with a piece of fruit, or trail mix.
They are tired of regular breakfast food ...
Some non-traditional items can make the morning variety more fun. Try Banana Pops: Cut a Banana in half, and put it on a popsicle stick. Dip it in yogurt, then roll it in your favorite healthy cereal, and stick in the freezer on wax paper. It’s like a healthy frozen popsicle, packed with nutrition for the day. What else can you offer? There’s nothing wrong with a slice of veggie pizza from the night before.
Here’s to a happy, healthy morning!
Beth Wallace, a registered dietitian at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, has more than six years of experience in providing nutrition care for children and adolescents.