August 15, 2023

When it comes to teenagers and breakfast, it seems the biggest pain point for parents is not what their children are eating, it’s that they don’t want to eat at all first thing in the morning!

The experts and the parents we consulted with agreed there are three main reasons why teens don’t want breakfast: they are not hungry at that time of the day; they don’t have enough time to prepare and eat food; or they are dieting or dealing with body issues.

Children’s body clocks change as they get older – kids who were leaping out of bed at 6am when they were small grow into teenagers who go to bed late and find it hard to get up in the morning.

They stay in bed as long as they can, prioritising sleep over food, and are often rushing to get ready and leave on time. Sometimes they are heading out the door even before their body is ready to be awake, so it’s no wonder they don’t feel like eating or complain that breakfast makes them feel nauseous.

But with some help from parents in the Te Atatu Toasted whānau, we’ve compiled some tips that will help you ensure your teens are getting enough, healthy nutritious food without daily battles over the breakfast table.

If the reason your teen doesn’t want to eat breakfast is that they have body issues or feel peer pressure to be a certain weight, that can be more difficult to handle. Avoid making a big fuss over your child’s eating habits as you don’t want to further complicate their relationship with food. Role model healthy eating habits yourself, try talking to your teen one-to-one at a less busy time of the day when everyone is not stressed about getting out the door (making sure you listen to what they have to say), and if you have serious concerns for their health or wellbeing, talk to your GP or a school nurse or guidance counsellor.

Here are our tips for feeding late-rising teens who have either no time or little inclination to eat breakfast.

  • Try making teen-friendly breakfast foods in bulk and freezing them. Homemade pancakes, waffles, cheese and ham muffins or frittata all freeze well and are quick to reheat.
  • Set your table with a range of breakfast cereals, wholegrain bread or fruit the night before. If the food is right there, it might it feel easier to eat for a hurried teen. And by providing options, you are still empowering them to make their own breakfast choices.
  • One mum reported that toasties/toasted sandwiches were a breakfast hit for her son, who sometimes makes extra to take for lunch.
  • Offer a snack instead of breakfast – a hard-boiled egg, a small container of yoghurt, a banana, some trail mix, a muesli bar or bliss balls (check out the recipes on our website) or even some dry Te Atatu Toasted Muesli in a small plastic container are all healthy options that they can take with them to munch on their commute or eat when they are hungry later in the morning.
  • Have some wholegrain bagels in the pantry or freezer – they are quick to toast and seem to be a popular choice with teens. Encourage them to add some protein with a topping of cream cheese or a nut butter.
  • Smoothies can be another good option for teenagers – you can pack them full of nutritious ingredients and they can be easier to digest than solid breakfast foods. One mum revealed her teens make a homemade version of Up and Go, blitzing cereal, banana, milk and drinking chocolate in the NutriBullet, here's a link to our home made version and it is delicious!!.
  • Don’t get hung up on what teenagers should be eating for breakfast. If your teenager feels like eating foods that are not typically consumed at that time of the day (instant noodles, sliced lunch chicken and microwave rice, dinner leftovers), just roll with it. At least they are eating something to feed their brain before school. You can make sure you cover off all the main food groups with healthy after-school snacks and a well-balanced dinner.
  • Reinforce the importance of breakfast by eating it together as a family once a week. Opt for a weekend so you can schedule it at a teen-friendly time, make it the main meal of the day and give everyone a turn at choosing their favourite foods for the menu.

Hopefully some of these tips will work for your teenager and take the stress out of breakfast for you and your family.

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