December 11, 2007
For many teens, the approach of the winter break also means
the approach of midterms, finals, and major projects. This
can leave less time to get enough sleep and eat right.
Staying up late, waking up late, and missing breakfast may
seem like a necessity when things get busy, but this
pattern can make it harder to function at one's best during
those waking hours.
"Even without 'sleep disorders and other medical
conditions,' lack of sleep makes people sleepy -- and
sleepy people do not function at their best."
For more information about the importance of a good night's
sleep, visit "No Time to Sleep," the Question of the week
from September 12, 2005:
When those late nights turn into late mornings with no time
for breakfast, the issues can be even greater.
"While adults need to eat breakfast each day to perform
their best, kids need it even more. Their growing bodies
and developing brains rely heavily on the regular intake of
food. When kids skip breakfast, they can end up going for
as long as eighteen hours without food, and this period of
semistarvation can create a lot of physical, intellectual
and behavioral problems for them. ... Remember that eating
a wholesome, nutritious morning meal will probably save you
time in the long run. By recharging your brain and your
body, you'll be more efficient in just about everything you
do. Interestingly, studies show that kids who skip
breakfast are tardy and absent from school more often than
children who eat breakfast on a regular basis. ... Time
invested in breakfast is much more valuable than the few
extra minutes of sleep you might get by bypassing the
For those who skip breakfast because they don't have time
or are always on the go, it can be difficult to find
options that are quick and convenient.
"When you're on the run, grabbing something quick at the
drive-through window can be pretty tempting. But [Heidi
Skolnik, a contributing editor to Men's Health magazine]
warns that those fast-food choices pack a wallop in fat and
calories, and don't offer much nutritional value. ...
Skolnik offered tips on how to cut calories and fat in your
breakfast food choices:
* Choose an English muffin over a croissant, which is
filled with butter.
* Cut the fillings. Don't choose egg, cheese and meat --
pick just two.
* If you want meat, choose leaner Canadian bacon over
The above link will take you to a site which includes some
of the calorie and fat content for "what you're getting
when you eat some of those popular fast-food choices."
Even a healthy breakfast doesn't have to take a lot of
time. There are a lot of nutritious options that can be
fairly quickly prepared and eaten.
"Preparing breakfast foods does not have to be a
time-consuming process. With a little planning, everyone
can enjoy the health benefits derived from eating a
breakfast each day. Here are some quick and easy breakfast
The above link will take you to a site which includes quick
and easy breakfast ideas that can be eaten both at home and
on the go. Please keep in mind: any recommendations for
meals that can be eaten "in the car" should be reserved for
passengers. Those driving should eat at home or once they
arrive at their destination.
If you have the opportunity to shop for your own breakfast
foods or can influence the person who does the shopping for
your household, then try to get foods that you will like
(and take the time to eat), but will also start your day
"A healthy breakfast that includes high-fiber cereal can
help you lose weight and keep diabetes, heart disease, and
stroke at bay -- especially when the menu also includes
nonfat milk and fruit. Research suggests that breakfast
eaters are leaner than those who skip the morning meal,
with one study reporting that missing breakfast was
associated with a fourfold increase in the risk of obesity,
says the February issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch.
High-fiber cereals are central to breakfast's health
benefits... Look for breakfast cereals that provide at
least 6 grams of fiber per serving, suggests Harvard Men's
Health Watch, but make sure your choice is low in sugar
(less than 10 grams per serving). Add nonfat milk and
bananas, berries, or apple slices to turn that bowl of
fiber into a tasty meal."
Some skip breakfast because they feel they don't have time.
Others are watching their weight and don't realize that a
healthy breakfast can make this easier. Different people
have different reasons. Whatever the reason, the positive
effects the body receives from a healthy breakfast are
"Breakfast not only starts your day off right, but also
lays the foundation for lifelong health benefits. People
who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to:
Breakfast is especially important for children and
adolescents. According to the American Dietetic
Association, children who eat a healthy breakfast are more
likely to have better concentration, problem-solving skills
and eye-hand coordination. They may also be more alert,
creative and less likely to miss days of school."
- Consume more vitamins and minerals and less fat and
- Have better concentration and productivity throughout the
- Control their weight
- Have lower cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart
Even those who know the health benefits, know healthy
options they could quickly take along, and know that eating
breakfast will actually help them use the time they do have
more efficiently don't always do what they know is best.
"Breakfast is the most common missed meal by adolescents
which leads to a higher probability of snacking during the
day. ... Teens could readily state the necessary steps to
improve one's diet. Examples given ranged from lowering the
intake of greasy food and junk food to implementing
vitamins and the incorporation of breakfast eating in the
diet. Once again, knowledge of healthy eating did not mean
the adolescents adhered to these dietary practices. A study
completed by Mary E. Shaw on the breakfast eating habits of
teens revealed that many adolescents skip this essential
meal. Various reasons for not eating breakfast were given
by teens such as, lack of time in the morning, not being
hungry, and simply not feeling like it."
Questions of the Week:
What do you think is the biggest reason most teens skip
breakfast? What other reasons are common? What reasons
could you offer to those who skip breakfast to help them
understand its importance? What resources could you provide
them with in order to make it easier for them to find quick
and healthy breakfast solutions that would work for them?
Why do you think it is difficult for some teens to make the
healthy choices that they know are best? What do you think
would make it easier for them to make better choices?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum