The Breakfast Battle: Why It’s So Important for Children to Start Their Day With a Meal
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”
It’s an adage that has likely followed you throughout your life through parents, teachers, and even peers. And now, it has probably passed from your mouth to your children. While it might not be the single most important meal in their day, it should certainly be their first.
Building a healthy relationship with food starts every morning, and it’s something your children need to learn how to do. But why is the battle over eating breakfast still so difficult? What makes this meal so important? Keep reading to find out.
What’s the Deal With Kids Skipping Breakfast?
Even though parents, teachers, and experts alike have emphasized the importance of breakfast time and time again, many children and teens tend to skip this meal. Teens are notoriously guilty of this, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, it may not be 100% in their control. The organization reports that it’s actually natural for most teens to have trouble falling asleep until past 11 p.m. and to wake up later in the morning as a result-- a biological schedule that clashes with the typical school routine.
Marcie Beth Schneider, M.D., FAAP, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition and an adolescent medicine physician in Greenwich, CT, reports that many teens simply aren’t getting enough sleep.
“They often wake up too tired or too nauseous to eat,” Schneider says.
Of course, there are other reasons teens skip a more comprehensive breakfast. Many young people have gotten in the habit of munching on snacks throughout the day. Numerous experts suggest that misguided attempts to lose weight, a lack of hunger, and a number of other issues all contribute to this phenomenon. If you’re struggling to convince your teen to eat breakfast everyday before school, at least try and get them to trade junk food snacks with healthy snack bars or their favorite fruit.
So Why Bother With Breakfast At All?
Sleep is the body’s way of restoring and healing itself, but breakfast is its method for re-fueling for the coming day. William Cochran, M.D., FAAP, a past member of the AAP’s Committee on Nutrition and vice chairperson of the Department of Pediatrics of the Geisinger Clinic in Danville, PA., agrees.
“As the first meal, it gets the body going for the rest of the day,” Cochran says.
This meal provides an excellent opportunity to fill the body with essential nutrients and fuel for the rest of the day. Starting strong means a better path throughout the day! In addition, breakfast powers the brain. Without a good meal to start the day, your child may struggle to pay attention in class before lunchtime comes around.
What Does the Perfect Breakfast Look Like?
Simply eating breakfast won’t get the job done. Rather, it’s what kids and teens eat for breakfast that holds the most importance. Sugary cereals, toaster pastries, and even granola bars don’t have all the essential nutrients that the human body needs to begin fueling itself for the day.
At the same time, it’s important to refrain from demonizing these sugary treats. Instead, you should brand them as exactly what they are: treats. Building up good food while not tearing down unhealthy food is a skill that takes time to develop, but it’s one that can help your children build a better relationship with their food and their bodies.
It’s up to you as a parent to begin your child’s education about the importance of breakfast. While the old “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” routine might not get through to them, taking the time to eat with them and teach by doing just might change the game.