Mar 2, 2015

Dr. Gellner: You know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but you can't get your child to eat in the morning. What to do? I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner and eating breakfast is our topic on The Scope today.

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Dr. Gellner: I hear this concern all the time, especially when we ask kids and parents about their eating habits at well visits. I've heard every excuse. I'm too busy, I wake up late, I'm not hungry, eating that early makes me sick. Approximately 8 to 12% of all school age kids skip breakfast. By the time they enter adolescence, as many as 20 to 30% of them have completely given up on breakfast.

There are all sorts of excuses as to why they skip breakfast. Older teens are busy late into the night with homework and extracurricular activities, so they go to bed late and then they get up and they rush off to school too frantic to get breakfast. The worst offenders are girls and older teens. As teens get older, they're more often inclined to fall asleep later at night, because it's natural for kids to not fall asleep until 11:00 and that's their biological schedule that is in effect, and yet it does not correspond to what the schools has set in terms of wake up time for when school starts. But that's when their bodies want to wake up. They want to wake up later, they want to go to bed later. So when this happens most kids would rather snooze an extra 15 minutes than get up for a bowl of cereal.

Kids often will wake up too tired or even too nauseated to eat. Some kids, especially girls, may also be bypassing breakfast in an effort to control their weight. However skipping breakfast is more likely to cause weight gain than it is to prevent it. Many kids skip breakfast, sometimes they'll skip lunch, and then they'll go home and they don't stop eating.

Study after study shows that kids who eat breakfast function better, they do better in school, and they have better concentration and more energy. Breakfast is also a great time to consume fiber, in the form of cereals, whole wheat breads, granola bars, things like that. And breakfast is also an opportunity to get your calcium and vitamin D in. Even just a glass of milk. If your child is saying "I can't take this. I can't sit down for a bowl of cereal" have a glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast. I often tell kids if you can't get a bowl of cereal in, take a granola bar. That's my breakfast, I'm busy in the morning, getting myself and my kids ready, so I have a granola bar or a fig bar or something that I can actually eat while getting ready.

What are some other ways you can get your teen or your child to slow down in the morning and get some breakfast in? You can start by setting an earlier bedtime, which helps ensure that your child will get up in time to eat something. Then make breakfast a priority in your home. Make sure everyone gets something for breakfast. Set a good example for your children by eating breakfast yourself. Again, try having some easy to go breakfast foods available for your child. Yogurt, granola bars, dried cereal that you can put in little zip lock baggies and take with you, breakfast bars, fresh fruit, dried fruit. Make sure it's something they can take and eat on the way to school. What's important is they get some healthy carbohydrates in, which will help provide energy to get them going through the day.

One beverage that kids should avoid from their morning meal is coffee. Same goes for energy drinks. While the craving for a quick pick me up is certainly understandable, caffeine raises blood pressure and heart rate in teens and it makes it harder for them to settle down and focus on their school work.

So there's no avoiding it; kids are going to fight on breakfast because of one reason or another. But if you make it easy for them to eat breakfast, no matter how busy they are or if they need to eat on the run, you'll increase the chances of your child getting a nutritious start to the day.

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