Teenagers still have a lot of growing to do, and they need proper nutrients to get them through their busy and active lives. While it’s probably unrealistic to think that teens will choose healthy foods all the time, there are some sensible rules you can put in place to encourage healthy eating in teens.
There’s probably not a teen alive who always makes healthy choices. Even vegetarians sometimes eat junk food. Teaching teens how to eat right is not about telling them never to eat fast food with their friends. In fact, prohibiting junk food may lead to greater consumption. Instead, teach teens which foods should be eaten in moderation and which make up a regular part of a healthy diet.
Consider the following healthy eating tips:
- Always eat breakfast. Make sure to include some kind of protein for continued energy. It would be even better to include some complex carbohydrates and a piece of fruit or fruit juice.
- Encourage healthy eating at lunch by talking with your kids about the healthy choices available at school or in the fast food restaurants around school.
- If your teen takes his or her own lunch, load it up with fruit, veggies, complex carbs and lean protein.
- Make sure there are plenty of healthy snacks in the house for after-school munchies. If your child is home alone after school, make a list of suggested healthy snacks to hang on the fridge.
- Eat supper together as a family as often as possible. This may be difficult when everyone’s schedule is crazy, but research has shown that teens who eat with their families tend to have healthier diets when they’re older. They also smoke and drink less than other kids, and girls who have regular family meals have less incidence of eating disorders.
- Remember to make supper healthy dinners as well. It may be the only meal you have any control over, so make it count with good lean protein (remember the vegetable sources of protein as well), whole grains, a couple of vegetables and, if you want dessert, something fruit-based.
- Teach your teens how to moderate portion size. MyPyramid.gov offers insight into how a plate should be distributed, as well as information on portions. Eat moderate portions yourself, as well, to set the example.
- Teens tend to gulp down their meals quickly. This may cause them to overeat, because feeling full takes a few minutes. Encourage attentive eating. Chewing slowly helps improve satiation, causes you to eat fewer calories, and improves nutrient absorption. It also increases the opportunity for family socialization if everyone eats slowly and enjoys their meal
The key is not to nag a child or teen who needs to lose weight, because he or she will just end up rebelling, sneaking junk food or doing other things to sabotage personal health.