Why do Teenagers Skip Breakfast?

Parents can help address this issue.

I can't start my day without breakfast. I need the nutritional fuel to wake up my body, and the coffee to jolt my gray matter into working order.

My daughter could set her digital clock by my 6:30 a.m. bagel, raisin toast or English muffin.

So, how come it takes an early morning vigil by the front door to get my daughter to eat breakfast? It's the last item on her morning to do list.

Without my motherly intervention, it would be the first one she skips.    

My daughter's typical morning before school looks like this:

  • 1. Pull together an outfit, study the results in the mirror, and start over two more times.
  • 2. Arrange her hair into a stylish messy bun, undo it, and spend ten minutes flat ironing it straight.
  • 3. Survey the brown bag lunch I just packed, and chuck one snack she deemed one too many.
  • 4. Sprint for the bus, but stop in her tracks when I call out, "Eat some breakfast!" to grab the half toasted waffle wrapped in a paper towel I am waving in her face, as I stand on our front lawn in sweats and slippers.

What is it with teenagers and breakfast?

According to a 2008 study at the University of Minnesota, up to a third of children and teens in our country skip breakfast each day and that number increases as the children advance through high school.

Everyone is concerned about obesity in children these days. Eating breakfast could be a part of the solution. The study showed that the breakfast eaters had significantly lower body mass index scores than middle school and high school students who forgo breakfast.  

What can parents do to help their teens begin the breakfast habit? Have on hand grab and go meals you can microwave in less than a minute (every second saved means an actual word or two of morning conversation with your teen, when mood and moon align).

Here are some speedy breakfast suggestions:

  • Spread peanut butter on a whole grain waffle. Or double it up to create a waffle sandwich. Wrap it in foil for portability. Your time-crunched teen can eat it while riding or walking to school. 
  • Stock up on disposable spoons. Send your teen off with container of yogurt and a utensil for eating it. The Greek yogurts are rich, creamy and flavorful. Chobani boasts 14 grams of protein. It is kosher, Gluten free, and a gelatin-free, vegetarian-friendly yogurt.
  • My daughter never says no to apple cinnamon Kraft Bagel-fuls, which have 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and a reasonable 180 calories. They take seconds to heat in the microwave, and the filling is like a taste of sweet cream mixed with the memory of mom and apple pie.  

Passover complicates the whole grab and go breakfast dilemma. The expression "breaking bread" couldn't be more apt for the boards of matzo that crack in half at the touch of a butter knife. If you are keeping kosher for Passover this week, hand your teen an apple and put a few squares of cheese in a baggie for eating on the run before school.  

Or better yet, try this simple recipe for transportable Kosher for Passover muffins: Soak 2 cups of matzo farfel in cold water for 5 minutes. Drain. Add 3 well-beaten eggs, 2-3 tablespoons of matzo meal, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of melted butter or margarine. Mix well. Fill greased muffin tins ½ to ¾ full. Place in a hot oven preheated to 400 degrees for ½ hour. Bake until golden. Enjoy them fresh from the oven or at room temperature.       

Cindy April 12, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Your column made me hungry. Nicely done, Elissa. :-)
BJ James April 12, 2012 at 01:19 AM
I didnt eat good enough breakfasts when I was in school and I'm sure it affected my focus, thus my grades. The same article could be focused on lunches. I ate terrible lunches in middle/high school. A lunch would consist of a cookie and a bag of Andy Capp Hot Fries. In retrospect, I think about what if I gave my body the fuel it needed to focus. I'd probably be a doctor or an astronaut!
Elissa C. Rosenthal April 12, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Eat something healthy and filling, Cindy. Thanks for the compliment!
Elissa C. Rosenthal April 12, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Even as adults we benefit from breakfast fuel to fire up our brains, BJ. It's too late to redo your childhood eating habits, but you can eat healthier meals as an adult and encourage the children in your life to do the same. When they become doctors and astronauts, they'll thank you for the nutritional guidance.
Amy Pond November 18, 2012 at 08:13 PM


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