Healthy eating during adolescence is necessary to meet the nutritional demands placed on the body by puberty – a time when there is an increased need not just for calories, but for nutrients such as protein, calcium, and iron. Getting your teen to choose the right types and amounts of food can be a challenge considering that this time of growth is characterized by a greater need and desire to become increasingly independent from parents and a sense of urgency to “fit in with the crowd,” and so, decisions are easily persuaded by their peers. Further adding to the challenge for parents is that many teens eat more meals away from home (and you) due to sporting and social events prevelant during this stage of development in comparison to younger children.
Fortunately, there are some steps that you as the parent can take to increase the chances that your teen will pass-up the soda pop for water and the fries for fruit. These include:
- Provide your teen with peer-accepted literature, such as teen magazines and books, that promote healthy eating and exercise habits.
- Convenience is important at this age so make healthy snacks and ingredients for “make your own” meals readily accessible for your teen. For example, have individual servings of homemade vegetable soup in the freezer to be quickly grabbed and cooked in the microwave.
- Heed your teens suggestions for meals. Offer healthier versions of the theme if necessary and shop for, prepare, and cook the meal together to make it a family experience.
- Allow your teen to invite friends over for meals and/or parties in which healthy appetizers, entrees, snacks, etc., are served. Better yet, have your teen plan the menu with the help of their friends.
- Talk about health and nutrition from a positive frame of reference. Avoid negative comments and address their concerns.
- Be a role model and follow healthy eating and exercise habits yourself; in other words “practive what you preach.”
With your help, your teen can develop healthy eating skills and practices. If your child expresses concern about his or her body weight or body image, schedule an appointment for your teen to meet with your family physician.
How do you foster healthy eating habits in your teen? Share with us, we want to know!