Third of 14 and 15-year-old girls regularly skip breakfast in order to lose weight

Teenage girls are regularly skipping breakfast and lunch because they want to lose weight, a major survey of children’s lifestyles has revealed.

Nearly a third of 14 and 15-year-olds often miss breakfast, one in five skip lunch and up to one in 12 routinely goes without either.

The numbers missing meals has nearly doubled in a generation, according to the survey which was first conducted in the 1980s.

Teenage anorexia

Kate Moss

Teenage girls, image on left posed by model, are shunning protein and
dairy foods in an apparent effort to keep as thin as celebrity role
models, such as Kate Moss

The findings suggest that Jamie Oliver’s healthy school meals drive is having little impact on young girls whose desire to be thin puts them off lunches altogether.

But the study, from a respected research body, also suggests that children’s eating habits generally are becoming healthier.

Youngsters are less likely to eat crisps, sweets, chocolate, sugar-coated cereals and chips and more likely to eat vegetables than they were just 10 years ago, it emerged.

For the study, the Exeter-based Schools Health Education Unit surveyed 83,000 10 to 15-year-olds about their lifestyles in 2010.

Body image: Teenage girls can be obsessed with their weight

Body image: Teenage girls can be obsessed with their weight

The findings were compared with results from as early as 1983, giving a database of answers from 750,000 young people.

Asked about their breakfast on the day of the poll, 31 per cent of girls in year 10 – aged 14 and 15 – admitted eating nothing at all.

Twenty-four per cent of 12 and 13-year-old girls had skipped it while 12 per cent of 10 and 11-year-olds had also gone without.

At the same time, 18 per cent of older girls and 14 per cent of 12 and 13-year-olds skipped lunch the day before.

Some eight per cent had eaten neither breakfast nor lunch the previous day.

The proportion claiming to have missed lunch had nearly doubled since 1986.

Just 10 per cent of year 10 girls skipped lunch 25 years ago.

Meanwhile figures dating back to 1991 show how increasing numbers of youngsters want to lose weight.

Sixty per cent of older girls wanted to lose weight in 2010, against 50 per cent 20 years ago.

Claire Rick, a spokesman for the School Food Trust, said skipping lunch had an impact on how pupils perform in lessons.

‘Skipping lunch doesn’t just leave pupils feeling hungry and tired – it really does affect their performance in the classroom,’ she said.

‘Our research shows that children are far more able to concentrate and focus with their teachers after a healthy meal at lunchtime, and we hear from schools all the time about the impact of better food for children’s behaviour at school.

‘That’s why it’s so important that the school dining room is a place where pupils want to spend their lunchtimes, and that we continue working on all of the factors that will encourage more pupils to opt for a healthy school lunch.’