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Breakfast for Teens: Can Breakfast Boost Your Teen’s Body Image?

Dawn Forsberg and her teens start each weekday with breakfast and whatever conversation they can manage first thing in the morning. On a typical day, they sit down at the table, eat fruit and eggs, and put all phones away. “The routine allows for some calm, and they start the day with good nutrition,” said Forsberg of her children.

The Benefits of Breakfast for Teens

A good breakfast routine like this may actually be even more beneficial. A recent study from the University of Missouri found that family breakfasts can boost the way teens see themselves. After reviewing survey data from over 12,000 adolescents, researchers found that both eating breakfast frequently during the week and regularly eating breakfast with a parent were each linked with a more positive body image.

Teens are battling unrealistic body and appearance ideals, especially those that appear on social media, says study author Dr. Ginny Ramseyer Winter, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Social Work and director of the MU Center for Body Image Research and Policy. Ramseyer Winter noted that “bolstering positive body image helps counter the negative messages youth receive from other places.”

She hypothesizes that when teenagers build strong relationships with close family, their relationship with themselves—including body image—is often better.

Unfortunately, daily breakfasts may not be doable for every family, given early school start times and busy work schedules. But even small, infrequent changes could be helpful. Ramseyer Winter suggests emphasizing family meal time when possible, perhaps eating breakfast as a family one day and dinner another day, which also has positive benefits.

For busy families who’d like to attempt a healthy family breakfast, Jessica Braider, a certified health coach and CEO of the online meal planning service The Scramble, offers these tips:

Breakfast Tips For Families:

  1. On the weekend, make a big batch of a favorite breakfast food, like muffins or frittatas. Freeze the leftovers for the week.
  2. Go for quick proteins like scrambled or fried eggs.
  3. Prepare healthy one-bowl meals like granola with yogurt and fruit.
  4. Not big on conventional breakfasts? Try an apple with cheese or rice cakes with soft cheese, bell peppers, and cucumbers.

Looking for more morning advice?

Braider adds that if there’s not enough time to sit down, teens should take the meal with them. Breakfast has too many health benefits to skip.

Kristin O’Keefe is a freelance writer who is also working on a satirical novel about a modern day fairy godmother. Kristin has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, Grown and Flown and Scary Mommy. Find her on Twitter @_KristinOKeefe and Facebook at Kristin O’Keefe, writer. 

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