Do Teens Really Need to Eat Breakfast?

Experts weigh in on the age-old issue.

variety of overnight oats in mason jars

Photo by Blaine Moats

Photo by Blaine Moats

Overnight oats

I've learned to let go of a lot of things as a mom of teens. After all we have bigger fish to fry than how clean their rooms are and if they have worn the same sweatshirt for three days in a row.

I choose to save my energy for things like their cell phone usage, if parents will be at the birthday party, and their science project deadline.

But one thing I am struggling to let go of is their eating habits. While they do have a well-rounded diet for the most part, if baffles me they all walk out the door in the morning before school without getting anything in their system—I don't know how they do it.

At least I didn't until I remembered being a teen myself and feeling like there was no way I could eat anything in the morning even if I tried, something that didn't change until I was in my 20s or so.

I have friends who tell me they argue every morning with their teen in hopes it will get them to eat breakfast—even if it's just an energy bar—with no luck. So I know I’m not the only parent who realizes this might be an issue.

OUR QUICK & HEALTHY BREAKFASTS IDEAS FOR TEENS:

Should we just let our teens skip what's known as the most important meal of the day and hope one day they have a morning appetite? And how much can it affect them throughout the day if they choose to skip breakfast?

Experts Weigh In

Since teens are still growing, they do need the extra nutrients to support that, said Carly Johnston, RDN, LDN, and owner of New England Nutrition Advisors. “Eating breakfast will also help them get energized for the day, increase their ability to focus in school, and establish healthy eating habits," she added.

Of course, they also need all the sleep they can get, and with early school start times, it's easy to pick sleep over food.

But, eating in the morning, even if you aren't hungry, is a healthy habit to start. Johnston said even if people aren't “breakfast eaters,” they can grow accustomed to eating in morning by doing it a few times. "Once someone starts eating breakfast, it's amazing how their body will start to show sign of hunger in the morning," she says.

Sareen Gropper, RDN and Nutrition Advisor for Luckybar, said eating breakfast "is associated with better nutrient adequacy, better food choice selections throughout the day, and a lower body mass index.” Gropper, who is also a professor at the College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University, said research shows that students who eat breakfast perform better and added that “skipping breakfast among adolescents is also associated with weight gain, a greater waist circumference, and a higher prevalence of obesity in later life."

The first meal of the day doesn't need to be fancy, which is good news since many of us don't have time for it anyway. Something as small as whole grain toast with nut butter, or an energy bar is better than nothing. And most people enjoy smoothies which aren't as heavy on the belly as eating solid food.

Now that we’ve got that nut cracked, I’m off to figure out how I can get them to keep those rooms in order.