Help! My Teen Won’t Eat Breakfast
6 tips for helping your teen start their morning well-fueled!
As a Pediatric Dietitian, one of the most common concerns that I hear from parents is that they struggle to get their teen to eat breakfast. While it is often known as “the most important meal of the day”, there’s no doubt that breakfast can also be one of the most challenging meals to squeeze in. Factors such as sleeping in, lack of time, fatigue, and poor appetite are just a few of the reasons why breakfast can be a bit of a hard sell in the morning. If you are a parent or caregiver who is having difficulty navigating breakfast, read on as I share some practical tips to help increase your teen’s success with breakfast every morning.
Before we jump in with the tips, it’s important to address the question – Is breakfast the MOST important meal of the day?
There are many physical and psychological benefits to eating breakfast. The first benefit is in its name- it “breaks” the overnight fast! Eating breakfast provides the body with the energy it needs to start the day. Without breakfast, it may be difficult to muster up the energy to get to school or work. Like how cars need gasoline, our bodies need fuel from food to function well. Eating breakfast can also help with appetite regulation, as inadequate intake earlier in the day can often lead to overeating at night. From a psychological perspective, studies have also shown that breakfast may have a positive impact on cognitive function in children and adolescents.
So is it bad to not eat breakfast? While skipping breakfast may not necessarily be harmful, there’s a chance that it could be interfering with your teen’s ability to feel and perform their best. Consider these tips to help ensure your teen is starting the day well-fueled:
1. Lead by example
Parents can lead by example by eating breakfast themselves. If your teen sees you making breakfast a priority, they will be more likely to follow suit.
2. Remember the Division of Responsibility
Despite having the best intentions, we want to avoid pressuring kids and teens to eat if they don’t want to. Adding pressure may make breakfast even less desirable to your teen. Remember that we want to treat them as the experts of their bodies and let them decide if and how much to eat.
3. Provide education on the benefits of breakfast
Is your child complaining of feeling fatigued at school? Are they worried about performing well on a test or an upcoming sporting activity? It may be helpful to have a conversation with your teen on how breakfast and regular food intake can help them perform their best. While it is still up to them to decide whether they will eat, parents and caregivers can offer guidance around making mealtime choices that set them up for success.
4. Consider adjusting their sleep schedule
Poor sleep can make waking up in the morning extra challenging, and your teen hitting the snooze button a few extra times means less time for breakfast. On average, most teens require at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night! Consider helping your teen adjust their sleep schedule for a more restful sleep and earlier wake up time so that there is more opportunity to have breakfast.
5. Prep breakfast ahead of time
If most mornings are a rush, your teen may not have time to prepare or eat breakfast. Consider prepping breakfast in advance so that they can have a quick bite to eat before they are out the door or on their way to school. Ideas such as overnight oats, yogurt parfaits, breakfast burritos or breakfast sandwiches can be great make-ahead options.
If you are needing some inspiration, check out this recipe on the blog for Make-ahead Breakfast Sandwiches. Get more breakfast ideas on our Blog and filtering by ‘Breakfast.’
6. Is your teen not interested in a full meal? Offer them a snack instead
A little fuel is better than no fuel at all! Encourage your teen to pack an extra snack in their school bag that they can have mid-morning or when their appetite improves. When planning a well-balanced snack, I often encourage choosing an item with protein along with a carbohydrate source (e.g. cheese and crackers). For more snack inspiration, download our “51 Healthy Snack Attacks” list to keep you and your teen energized with good nutrition.
If you’ve gone and tried all these steps with still no success, no need to worry! While there are benefits to breakfast, there are still plenty of opportunities throughout the day for your teen to get the nutrition they need.
Have more questions about your child or teen’s nutrition? Our Dietitian team is here to help!
Are you looking for more support with healthy meal planning and fostering a healthy relationship with food? Check out our nutrition counselling services with a Registered Dietitian!
Our Registered Dietitian team specializes in nutrition for mental health, meal planning, weight concerns, emotional eating, eating disorders, digestive health and more. Find out more about our Dietitian Nutrition Counseling Programs here.
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Check out more articles on our blog written by our team of Dietitians!
Jamie Lee Kwong
Disordered Eating, Pediatrics, Family Meal Planning & Chronic Disease
Jamie will greet you with a warm and approachable smile that has a way of putting you at ease. You can count on her to be adaptive and collaborative in coming up with right-fit solutions that meet your health, mental health and family needs. She also specializes in Mental Health, Anti-inflammatory Eating, and Arthritis.