By Howard J. Bennett
Last month, I wrote an article about why exercise is important. Now I’m tackling another topic that parents love to nag their kids about: eating a good breakfast. However, before you roll your eyes about “the most important meal of the day,” read on.
The kid’s perspective
Although some kids are “morning people,” most have to wake up for school before they’d like to. That’s why parents yell to their kids over and over to get them up in the morning. What happens next? Well, the poor, sleepy child drags himself to the bathroom, pees and gets dressed. Then it’s off to the kitchen for a yummy breakfast. Unfortunately, for many kids their brain has woken up, but their stomach hasn’t. This isn’t exactly true because stomachs don’t sleep or wake up in the traditional sense. However, the main reason kids don’t want breakfast is because they simply are not hungry. This isn’t anyone’s fault, but it’s a fact of life.
Some children would eat breakfast, but they don’t like foods typically served at breakfast time. Although adults love the idea of digging into a cheese omelet or cup of yogurt overflowing with berries, these foods may not appeal to kids.
The parent’s perspective
The reason breakfast is called breakfast is because you are “breaking” your fast. This means it’s the first meal you’re eating since dinner, which was about twelve hours ago. Therefore, when you wake up in the morning, your stomach is empty and your body is getting energy by burning body fat and breaking down chemicals that are stored in your liver.
Scientists have researched whether breakfast really is “the most important meal of the day.” And it turns out that kids do better in school if they eat breakfast. They have more energy. They pay attention better. And they perform better on tests. This too, is a fact of life.
Finding a compromise
The following tips may make breakfast time easier for everyone:
• There is no rule that says you have to eat breakfast food for breakfast. I know lots of kids that eat pizza, spaghetti or peanut butter and jelly in the morning.
• Kids can make a list of the foods they would like for breakfast. You can’t expect your parents to cook special meals, but leftovers, frozen foods and packaged goods can come in handy when everyone is trying to rush out the door for work and school.
• Because you may not be hungry as soon as you wake up, consider letting your parents wake you up 15 to 30 minutes earlier. (I know this is difficult to do.) Have them turn on a light and/or play music a half-hour before it’s time to eat.
• Ask your parents if you can do something fun when you first get up, such as reading a book, playing a game or even watching a little TV before breakfast.
• Make sure you’re get enough sleep. (School-age kids need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night.)
• If all else fails, grab a cheese stick or other protein-rich food to eat on the way to school. (Just don’t do this every day.)
© 2012 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.
(First published in the Washington Post 4/10/11.)
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