Very few parents are lucky enough to have children that are “morning people.” The average child tends to have a hard time rolling out of bed. Most children end up getting out of bed later and gobbling down a quick breakfast before rushing off to school. It’s uncommon to find a child who voluntarily rises early for a calm, quiet breakfast.
But that morning is so important. According to one study, the way your child starts the day can have a huge impact on their overall health.
A team of researchers from University College London found that skipping breakfast increased the risk of childhood obesity. A lack of sleep served to compound the problem, as did a lack of regular bedtime and sleep schedule.
The researchers used data from the Millenium Cohort Study, which examined children born into over 19,000 families around the UK between 2000 and 2002. The children underwent examinations of weight and height at the ages of 3, 5, 7, and 11.
Putting aside the genetic influences (children of overweight mothers are more likely to be overweight) and pregnancy influences (mothers smoking during pregnancy increase the risk of their child becoming obese), it was discovered that disrupted routines are one of the primary contributors to childhood obesity. Children who didn’t get to sleep at a regular time, didn’t have a set time to wake up, and who ended up skipping breakfast were more likely to suffer from an increased appetite. They also ended up eating more energy-dense foods—ergo, high-calorie foods, most of which ended up being sugar-rich, low-nutrition junk food.
Of course, these aren’t the only factors that influence your child’s weight gain. Other factors include: sports participation, sugary drink consumption, fruit intake, and TV viewing.
However, starting the day off right—getting up on time after a good night of sleep and eating a healthy breakfast—will help your child to find consistency in their routines. That consistency will make it easier for them to build the psychological “foundation” of their day. It will be much easier to encourage them to eat healthy when they’ve started the day off right.
1. Y. Kelly, P. Patalay, S. Montgomery, A. Sacker. “BMI Development and Early Adolescent Psychosocial Well-Being: UK Millennium Cohort Study“. Pediatrics, 2016; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-0967.