Aside from nixing soda and junk food, the age-old rule still applies: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Teens live in a world where junk-food cravings are indulged and dinner is grab-n-go, meaning it’s probably loaded with fat, sugar, and salt and lacking in fiber and important nutrients. We shouldn’t be surprised that so many kids are fighting the battle of the bulge.
In a 2011 national survey, more than 15 percent of US high school students were overweight, while another 13 percent were obese. Obesity puts teens at risk for a raft of problems, from pre-diabetes and sleep apnea to the social stigma that comes with not fitting in with the crowd. It also can lead to a number of chronic health problems in adulthood.
But even small changes can make an enormous difference. Three years ago, Dr. McGowan had a 16-year-old patient who weighed close to 225 pounds. She told the girl, “If you do nothing else, stop drinking soda,” and, a year later, the teen showed up 50 pounds lighter, having kicked her two 16-ounce-sodas-a-day habit. She then started to exercise and watch her diet, Dr. McGowan says, and by the time she left for college, she was 130 pounds.
What parents can do: Fuel them up before they leave for school. “Good nutrition is having breakfast in the morning, even if it’s a piece of fruit or a slice of toast,” says Karen Browner-Elhanan, MD, medical director and adolescent medicine specialist at BridgeSpan Medicine in White Plains. Parents should be careful without being extreme. “It’s all about moderation.”