Updated: Apr 22
By Kebbie Stine, MNT
Adolescence is a time of huge growth; physically, emotionally and mentally. Teens need more nutrients during this time to nourish this growth, but unfortunately adolescent diets are characterized more by foods like pizza, french fries, fast food, candy, chips, and soda. Many teens end up nutrient deficient and statistics increasingly point to huge spikes in obesity rates for this population. How do we encourage healthy eating habits in our teens? With a newfound independence, their own money, and an active social life this can be a challenge for parents. Here are a few tips to help lead teens in the right direction:
Eat Together as a Family
With hectic schedules and ever increasing social pulls this can be a tricky one, but making dinner and eating as a family is a game changer. Not only is it an opportunity to make sure your child is getting a nourishing meal, but it is also a time to stay connected which can be a difficult task during these fleeting years. Realistically this will not happen every single night, but make family meals a priority as many nights as possible for your family. It may mean eating earlier or later some days, or it could even be family breakfast. Get creative!
Stock Up on Healthy Foods
Buy only the foods that you want your kids to eat; if chips and soda are not available at home that is at least one less time they will be reaching for those items. Make sure to have lots of healthy options for your teens to snack on. Stock the pantry with fruits, pre-cut veggies (carrot sticks, celery, cucumbers, broccoli, bell peppers) and dips like hummus or nut butters. Deli meats, cheese, olives and crackers makes a great snack. Swap chips for popcorn, trail mix, or low sugar jerky. Make big pitchers of water with fruit for an interesting beverage (you can add fruit to ice cubes as well). Flavored seltzers like La Croix are also a good drink option.
Avoid Food Fights!
Sadly there will be plenty of frustrating moments between parents and their teens, don’t make food one of them! If kids feel nagged, pressured or controlled they will push back, and forcing anyone to eat a certain way sets everyone up for failure. The best thing you can do is consistently offer healthy options, offer dessert and occasional treats to avoid feelings of deprivation, and let kids decide when they’ve eaten enough.
Model Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Your kids are paying attention, and if mom or dad is sipping on Diet Coke, skipping meals, and munching on Cheetos they will too. If you want to teach your teens healthy eating habits it is important that you model the behaviors you want to instill in them. It also helps to get them involved in the planning, shopping and cooking. Not only are kids (at any age) more likely to eat foods they have helped prepare, but you are also giving them valuable tools to nourish themselves in the future.
For more information or a custom nutrition plan for your teen or your family, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or set up an appointment at 303-744-7100
Kebbie Stine is a Master Nutrition Therapist in the Denver area. She practices nutrition therapy at Washington Park Chiropractic and is the owner of Whole Choice Nutrition Therapy. Contact Kebbie at email@example.com