Written by Doctor G

Breakfast Ideas for Kids Who Aren’t Hungry

My 12 y.o. daughter refuses to eat breakfast. She says she’s not hungry, but I keep telling her breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I need suggestions. Help!

Kim, in PA    

So… you’re both right.

Breakfast is important, but she is genuinely not hungry. Her brain chemicals are changing with puberty. Chances are she isn’t tired until after 11pm and could easily sleep in each morning. Since her brain is telling her to be sleeping at 7 or 8am, her brain is also telling her she’s not hungry. AND, she doesn’t want to get up one second earlier than she has to, just to eat. Texting or primping are completely different, Mom! There are ways around this.

Before we get to my list of suggestions, I have to mention one other possibility. Is she skipping breakfast as a way of trying to control her weight? Most tweens and teens are not actually hungry in the morning, but her refusal could be a body image issue so it’s important to check. Try asking her (not when you’re arguing about breakfast) “Do you see yourself as too skinny, too fat or just about right?” The answer (and how it compares to the reality) should start to give you a sense about her body image. If you have any concern that she might have an unhealthy body image, let me know. That is a different subject entirely!

Now, for just-not-hungry middle and high schoolers, here are some things you can try.

  1. Stock up on high protein, fairly healthy and portable snacks. Make sure she has a few of these stashed in backpack or locker and chance to wolf one down before 10am.
  2. Choices within limits. Let your daughter know that eating before school is not negotiable (if that is how you feel), but that she can pick from a menu of options. Decide together on a few breakfast combos that she or you has time to prepare and that she agrees to eat.
  3. Compromise on liquid breakfast. No, I don’t mean Starbucks. For not-hungry people, drinking is often more tolerable than eating. So find some smoothy recipes that include protein and healthy fruits (or even vegetables). Putting in some wheat germ, for example, can make sure she gets a meal in a glass. Or a to-go cup.

I hope some of these options are helpful. If not, or if you have other questions, let me know!

Readers, how do you get breakfast into your “Not hungry, Dad!” kids?

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8 thoughts on “Breakfast Ideas for Kids Who Aren’t Hungry”

  1. My 9yo can’t make up his mind in the morning. My 6yo, who wakes up really early, is hungry again for a snack 5 minutes before it is time to leave for school.

    I solved the problem by buying a mini blender and make everyone breakfast shakes. I sneak yogurt into my 6yo’s chocolate milk and call it a milkshake, so he is not hungry anymore. My 9yo gets to sip on his fruit and yogurt shake (vanilla yogurt, cinnamon, and strawberries, banana, kiwi, or whatever other fruit I can get at Costco) in between getting dressed, practicing piano, reading, and procrastinating. He thinks he is sneaking past us by not choosing breakfast, and I smile and let him think he’s won.

    1. Adina, this is a great solution and a great recipe! You are training your kids to expect fuel in the morning and still avoiding the battle royale before school each day. Way to go!

  2. Rachel Blaufeld

    Often I make pancakes on Sunday and sneak bananas into the batter…I make extra and put in fridge for quick reheating during the beg of the week. My Tweens like this – adds an element of the wknd to their day and they can warm them by themselves.

    In addition to smoothies (which are a big hit here) … Drinks shaken over ice?!?! Crazy.
    Choc milk over ice, oj on ice — makes them feel sophisticated!

    1. I have this picture of your boys drinking choc milk on ice in a highball… Very nice tips, thank you!

  3. I’ve tried all the suggestions above (my last attempts were smoothies and peanut butter balls, also just a plain piece of cheese, or yogurt), and my 12 yr old still refuses to eat in the morning, even semi-sugary cereal. She says it makes her stomach hurt. She even lied to me this morning and said she ate when she didn’t. I’d be pretty surprised if it’s body image issues – she is naturally tall and thin and eats well at other meals. I am pretty health-conscious and always stress the importance of protein/fruit/veggies/whole grains… Discussing it on the way to school, the only thing she would agree to is drinking a glass of milk. Will that suffice until her snack time at 10am?

    1. It probably will, actually. How does she feel about a bedtime snack so that it’s not so long from the last food of one day to the first food of the next?

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