Getting Your Daughter to Eat Breakfast
By Leslie Davis
Eating balanced meals throughout the day is important for good health. For teenagers, whose bodies are changing on a regular basis, getting the proper nutrition is especially vital.
Unfortunately, many teenage girls believe they need to lose weight (whether they do or not) and decide that skipping meals is the best way to do that. A poll conducted by the Schools Health Education Unit in England found that one in 10 girls aged 14 and 15 often go without both breakfast and lunch each day.
Breakfast is the most commonly missed meal of the day, and the habit can begin at an early age. According to the poll, 26 percent of 14- and 15-year-old girls miss breakfast, 20 percent of 12- and 13-year-olds, and 7 percent of 10- and 11-year-olds.
"It is very unwise to skip meals in this way, especially at an age where the body is still developing and requires food for energy," Mary George, a spokesperson for Beat Eating Disorders, told the Daily Mail. "Taken to extremes, this behavior could possibly lead the way towards an eating disorder which can destroy lives. A healthy diet and sensible exercise is vital."
Adolescent girls are more likely to skip breakfast the older they get, setting them up for unhealthy eating patterns that could result in an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia or binge eating. And while they may believe that skipping meals will lead to weight loss and better health, skipping breakfast can actually set them up for weight gain and a loss of critical nutrients.
A study in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that skipping breakfast can result in diets that are too low in calcium and fiber. The study also showed that teen girls who do eat breakfast are generally leaner and have a lower body mass index (BMI) than girls who regularly skip the day's first meal.
People who eat breakfast typically make healthier food selections, eat balanced meals throughout the day and engage in regular physical activity. This is true as much for teens as it is for adults, and ensuring that your daughter does not skip breakfast can be important for her long-term health.
Here are some ways to make sure that your daughter is not missing out on what is commonly referred to as the most important meal of the day:
Set a Breakfast Time
The morning can be hectic and teens can drag their feet about getting ready for school. But rather than rushing your daughter out the door with a Pop Tart or other quick snack, establish a time for breakfast every morning that will allow her to eat a healthy, well-balanced meal.
Eating a breakfast with proteins, vitamins and healthy grains can give your daughter an energy boost that can last until lunch. It will also help her to be more alert and focused, allowing her to pay more attention in class.
Make Breakfast a Family Affair
Some people skip meals simply because they don't see the point in sitting down to eat alone. That may also be true for your daughter. Remedy this by sitting down for breakfast as a family. Use that time to touch base with your daughter and find out what she is planning to do for the day. It's a good way to establish better communication with your teen while making sure both she and you take time to eat breakfast.
Have Your Daughter Set the Menu
Nothing makes breakfast less appealing then eating the same thing every morning. Have your daughter create a menu of various foods she would like to eat that are nutritious and tasty. Get her involved in the grocery shopping and have her prepare those breakfasts that she can. This can help get her excited about breakfast and learn healthy eating and cooking habits.
Remind Your Daughter to Eat
If your family's schedule makes it impossible to schedule regular family breakfasts, at least make it a point to remind your daughter to eat breakfast every morning. It may take a while for her to get into the habit, but having her eat something is better than going to school on an empty stomach.
Explain Why Breakfast Is Important
Many teenage girls are convinced that if they eliminate the calories they would consume by eating breakfast, they will be able to lose weight. Dissuade your daughter of this idea and educate her about the health benefits of eating breakfast, which include helping to keep weight off by boosting metabolism. Tell her she is actually likely to consume more calories during the day if she skips breakfast because she may overeat at other meals or over-snack later in the day.
Look For Signs of an Eating Disorder
While it's likely that your daughter is skipping breakfast because she's in a rush or doesn't particularly like breakfast foods, there is a chance that your daughter's eating habits are due to an eating disorder. Familiarize yourself with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating so that you can watch for signs of them in your daughter.
If you suspect that your daughter does have an eating disorder, talk to her about it. If she does, it will be necessary to seek professional help through a therapist or a residential treatment center for eating disorders. With treatment, she can overcome her eating disorder and learn how to have a healthy relationship with food.