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Problems with Skipping Breakfast in Teens

by Hannah Wahlig, studioD

After a long night of studying followed by an early-morning wake-up call and rush to the bus stop, teenagers can often struggle to fit a healthy breakfast into their routine. Though breakfast is important for all family members, it's particularly critical for teenagers who need lots of energy throughout the day to remain alert and support their busy growth. With as many as a third of teenagers skipping breakfast, according to a 2008 "U.S. News & World Report" article, health and wellness problems are on the rise.

Breakfast and Weight

Though it seems counter-intuitive, skipping breakfast doesn't translate into lower weights for teenagers. Several studies, including one published in a 2008 issue of the journal "Pediatrics," have confirmed a link between skipping breakfast and higher rates of obesity in teens. When teenagers skip breakfast, they deprive their bodies of all of the nutrients and caloric energy they need to keep their energy up and their heads off their desks. To counteract the effects, most teens resort to snacking, and they reach for high-fat, high-sodium snacks that deliver a quick boost but also pack on pounds. Committing to a breakfast each morning reduces the likelihood that teens will snack between meals, and the extra breakfast energy boost also translates to more physical activity to burn excess calories.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Breakfast delivers much-needed nutrients to your body after you haven't consumed anything in several hours of sleep, and teens who skip breakfast are missing the nutrient boat in a big way. In particular, teens who skip their first meal of the day are more likely to be calcium and iron deficient, according to a 2006 study from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. When teens are lacking in the nutrients their body needs to function, they are often more tired and more easily distracted than when their bodies are well-stocked. If you notice your teen's grades are slipping or you're hearing from teachers more often, a lack of nutrients might be the culprit of a shift in behavior and performance.

Long-Term Habits

Setting up healthy eating habits during formative teenage years is critical for creating a lifetime of good decision-making when it comes to overall wellness. If teenagers become used to skipping breakfast and opting for snacks instead, they are likely to become habitual breakfast-skippers, a routine that increases their risk of remaining overweight or even obese as adults. Regular breakfast routines translate into healthier diets overall -- teens who eat healthy breakfasts most days of the week are also more likely to make more filling, less fattening food decisions throughout the day. The sooner these healthy habits become routine, the better off your teenager will be as a healthy adult.

Breaking the Skipping Cycle

Start helping your teen develop healthy breakfast habits early on. Help your teen review her morning routine and figure out where to make a healthy breakfast fit, even if it means setting the alarm 10 minutes earlier. Develop a weekly breakfast menu with grab-and-go options, like fruit and a hard boiled egg, and sit-down meals, like an English muffin with peanut butter and banana. If your teen still feels like snacking by mid-morning, invest time in making ahead more filling breakfasts, like egg and lean meat breakfast burritos or vegetable quiche seasoned with ranch-flavored dry mix, that can be frozen and reheated for quick serving on busy mornings.

About the Author

Hannah Wahlig began writing and editing professionally in 2001. Her experience includes copy for newspapers, journals and magazines, as well as book editing. She is also a certified lactation counselor. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Mount Holyoke College, and Master's degrees in education and community psychology from the University of Massachusetts.

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