Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, says the old adage. Indeed, for blood sugar control, nutrient intake and weight managements, breakfast ought to include a source of lean protein, fibre and a pinch of good fat, and in the very least – it should not be skipped.
However dated the saying is, however, the message is not across to everyone, particularly highschool students. I discovered this when I guest lectured for a grade 10 PE class at well-known all girls school last month. The teacher specifically asked me to discuss the importance of breakfast because many of her students were lethargic by their 2nd period gym class.
I remember my highschool days. During swim team season, I would get up at 5 am for our 6 am practice which lasted 1 h 30 min. By 10 am I would be half asleep in history class. I had not learned the importance of breakfast, and did not pack it with me for after practice, nor did I equip myself with a mid-morning snack that may have helped me focus on the historical significance of Louis Riel.
The energy demands on students have not changed, however, opportunities for healthy eating, and snacking, have. As with many secondary schools, the school I visited had three potential lunch breaks ranging from 11 am to nearly 2 pm. Depending on your class schedule, you could be going anywhere from 3 hours since you had breakfast to almost 6 hours since your last meal. Unfortunately, there are no scheduled nutrition breaks before lunch and eating outside the cafe, i.e. snacking between class, is forbidden. So if you skipped breakfast, well – you’re headed for a blood sugar disaster and a session of “inhale everything in sight” as soon as food is available. This is what I think is happening in some students.
The solution? Well, we can’t change your school schedule so that lunch happens when you are actually hungry but not famished. But if you have a predicable schedule, eat breakfast accordingly and load up at breakfast if you know you won’t be having lunch until 1:45 pm. A great grab-n-go option is a smoothie made with Greek yogurt or protein powder for extra staying power. And, please, make your own. It only takes a few minutes and then you can choose natural ingredients instead of the sugar-laden chemical soup in meal replacement drinks like Boost and Ensure. (Several students asked about those.)
Update: Check out September 2013’s alive article inspired by one of my teen clients.
Do you struggle with getting your teen to make healthy choices?