March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
You've heard it since grade school: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But with a morning of competing priorities, snooze buttons and questionable appetites, it's easy to skip breakfast. It's estimated that 12 to 34 percent of children and adolescents regularly miss the morning meal.
While teens aren't always on board with what you say, they are easily influenced by their friends, and that includes breakfast behavior. A study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that teens are more likely to eat breakfast if their friends do, which is especially true in a social setting.
Eating a healthy breakfast (versus one that includes doughnuts or soda) can help your teen get more nutrition and even perform better at school. Need more? Check out these five reasons for your teen to eat breakfast this new school year.
Energy. Along with sleep and exercise, breakfast is one of the best ways to recharge your batteries. It's the perfect opportunity to get energy-boosting carbohydrates like whole-grain bread, oatmeal and fruit. Create a breakfast with staying power using protein and carbohydrate combos like fruit and yogurt, whole-grain cereal with milk or a whole-grain waffle with nut butter. Breakfast is an ideal way to energize so there will be no sleeping in class!
Improved concentration. Studies suggest that eating a healthy breakfast improves brain function — particularly memory and recall. This is essential for soaking up new knowledge and applying it later for a big exam.
Better grades. Research shows students who eat breakfast perform better academically. It's not fully understood why, but scientists believe it may be because breakfast supplies essential nutrients to the nervous system to rev up brain power. Or the explanation could simply be that breakfast alleviates hunger and a rumbling tummy, which can interfere with academic performance, behavior and self-esteem.
Healthy weight. Teens may think skipping breakfast is a good way to save on calories and lose weight, but quite the opposite is true. Breakfast skippers tend to weigh more than those who eat breakfast regularly. Additionally, those who eat a morning meal tend to make healthier food choices throughout the day, which can positively impact weight and long-term health.
It tastes great! This may be the most compelling reason to enjoy breakfast before a long school day. Warm up with a hearty bowl of oatmeal on a cool morning or hydrate with sweet chunks of fresh fruit and yogurt when it's warm outside. With so many options on the table, you're sure to find something that works — peanut butter on whole grain toast, fruit, eggs, yogurt or last night's leftovers … what's not to love?
Encourage eating breakfast daily at home or school and make it easy. Grab-and-go meals like a waffle with peanut butter, a boiled egg and fruit, or homemade oatmeal bars make eating breakfast a breeze.
Though it may take time, helping your teen eat a nutritious breakfast today will build healthy eating habits that last a lifetime.