Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that’s not just because it energizes you for the day to come. According to new research, starting off the day by having breakfast as a family can help promote positive body image for kids and teenagers.
The study, which was published in the journal Social Work in Public Health and led by researchers from the University of Missouri Columbia, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and Washburn University, looked into the eating habits of over 12,000 students who came from more than 300 schools. The researchers zeroed in how the students ate breakfast, how often they are with a parent, and their eating habits as a whole.
The researchers found that among the students observed, more than 50% ate breakfast five days a week, more than 30% ate breakfast less frequently, and almost 17% never ate breakfast. And children who regularly ate breakfast were more likely to have a positive body image, especially if they regularly ate breakfast with a parent.
One reason behind the study’s findings might be that eating meals as a family helps foster positive interactions with food, as Dr. Virginia Ramseyer Winter, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work and director of the University of Missouri Center for Body Image Research and Policy who authored the study, pointed out toNeuroscience News.
“We know that the health behaviors of a parent can have long-term effects on a child. Results of this study suggest that positive interactions with food — such as eating breakfast and having family meals together — could be associated with body image,” Dr. Ramseyer Winter said.
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
She also elaborated toThe Jakarta Post, “Children and adolescents are under a lot of pressure from social media and pop culture when it comes to physical appearance. Having a healthy relationship with food from eating breakfast and spending meal time with family might have a significant impact on well-being.”
It’s probably nothing new for parents to hear that mealtimes are essential for a child’s development. The benefits of sharing meals together as a family are numerous, and they encompass more than just helping to strengthen your bond.
For instance, according toFamily & Children’s Center, family meals are a way for children to eat healthier and be not as picky with their food. Studies have found that “families who eat together are twice as likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables as families who don’t eat together.”
Furthermore, children who eat with their family “tend to eat a wider variety of foods and become less picky eaters.” Healthy Childrenadded that families who eat together thrice a day experience a decrease in unhealthy food choices.
Eating together as a family not only helps improve kids’ physical health but also their mental status. Aside from helping build confidence about their body, children who routinely participate in family meals are also less likely to exhibit unfavorable behaviors such as physical aggression or delinquency, according to a study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.
The said study was led by researcher Dr. Mary Pagnini, who claimed the findings may be attributed to the fact that the presence of a parent during mealtime can give way to the child learning how to interact properly with others.
“The presence of parents during mealtimes likely provides young children with firsthand social interaction, discussions of social issues and day-to-day interactions, and vicarious learning of pro-social interactions in a familiar and emotionally secure setting,” Dr. Pagnini said, as quoted inMotherly.
She continued, “Experiencing positive forms of communication may likely help the child engage in better communication skills with people outside the family unit.”
Other reports issued by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) stated that children who eat at least five times a week with their families were at a reduced risk of “developing poor eating habits, weight problems or alcohol and substance dependencies, and tend to perform better academically than their peers who frequently eat alone or away from home.”
Finally, family meals are also an invaluable opportunity for parents to serve as good role models for their children. It's at the dining table where you can show the kids how to practice proper table etiquette and what healthy eating looks like, among others. Children tend to echo the behaviors that they see their elders do on a regular basis, so when they see that their parents enjoy what they are eating and they are taking the time to savor their food, they learn to enjoy food and mealtimes with their families as well.
It can be a real challenge to make breakfast a family affair. As Dr. Ramseyer Winter said in a video for the University of Missouri’s MU News Bureau, breakfast is a busy time of the day, since it is when parents are getting themselves ready for work and the kids are preparing to go to school. For this reason, it can be tricky to have everyone sit down around the table for a meal.
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
However, given how important breakfast is for children and adolescents, parents are encouraged to make sure that there is still some time for the whole family to eat together before going off to school or to the office. Here are some tips you can try out:
Encourage your teen to wake up earlier
Waking up even just 10 minutes earlier than usual can help start establish family breakfast in your tween or teen's daily routine. Encourage your teen to set his alarm earlier or to prepare his clothes and bag the night before so that he won’t have to rush getting ready in the morning.
Prepare your child's favorite meal
You know your child best including his favorite food. Enticing him by cooking the breakfast meal he likes best — whether that’s an ulam-and-rice combo, a sandwich, pancakes — might be just the hack you need to get him to wake up early for breakfast! Still, try to make it as healthy a meal as you can, so your child doesn’t just get a meal he likes but also one that will give him the energy he needs for the day.
Let your teen help you out
On weekends, make breakfast even more fun by encouraging your child to help prepare your family’s meal! Teens are already very capable, so you won’t have a problem with meal preparation. Eventually, you might even find your teen motivated to cook by himself without any prodding on your part!