With the added independence of their teenage years, it can be easy for parents to lose track of their child’s diet. But, if your teen gets into a nasty habit of eating only fried and fast foods, they can develop serious health problems down the road. So, while it may take a little effort, responsible and supportive parents should help their teens develop healthy eating habits, even if the teen is defiant at first. Here are five tips to help add variety to your teen’s palette and move them towards healthy eating habits.
Restaurants are your friends
Although more expensive than eating at home, taking your teen to “fancy” restaurants might pay off in the long run. There are less “kid” options at nice restaurants, and there will be an added social pressure for your teen to order something an adult might order, such as fish, steak, or roast chicken, instead of a cheeseburger or chicken tenders. Your teen won’t want to be embarrassed at dinner, especially at a good restaurant surrounded by adults. Most teens crave independence and to be taken seriously by adults, so they’ll order something more sophisticated. It’s a good way to introduce new food to your teen without them even realizing you’re doing it!
If you do this a few times, your teen might even develop a taste for a specific restaurant dish. Then, you can find a recipe to use at home. Once you’re in control of the recipe, you can perfect it to include all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins your teen should be getting from their food.
Make daily reminders
The Internet is an excellent resource for proper nutritional health. By searching for your teen’s age, height, sex, and weight, you can easily find websites that give information on what and how much they should be eating. Pinning a nutrition chart like this on the fridge will keep your teen’s nutrition goals in plain sight and serve as a consistent reminder. This may be an effective way to remind your teen to eat healthily. And, since it has to do with their own health, it will probably be more effective than something like a chore chart.
If you’re worried this will make your teen feel singled out for their eating habits, it’s not a bad idea to print out nutrition sheets for yourself as well! This way, you can even assist each other in reaching your nutritional goals. It turns eating healthy from a personal burden into a group effort. With this mindset, you could even turn eating healthy into a game! The person who most closely hits their goals each week wins a prize. The reward could be going out to a movie, choosing a weekend activity, or picking a restaurant for the weekend. The point is to find a way to motivate your teen to be consistent about their nutrition while avoiding triggering any self-conscious feelings.
Make your teen self-motivated
This is a great method, both because it’s incredibly effective and because it means less work for you as a parent. Teenagers, for the most part, crave independence and achievement. Because of this, they have an incredible drive to achieve their own goals. If you can find a way to make health one of those goals, your work is pretty much done.
A good way to do this is by showing your teen how eating healthy will help them achieve goals they’ve already set for themself. For example, if your teen is an athlete, it’s easy to show them how eating well leads to better performance. Literally, you are what you eat. If your teen is involved with a debate team, a math club, a theater group, or any other team where memory and speech are important, teach them how eating healthy improves memory and reduces anxiety. Eating healthy is generally beneficial, it’s just a matter of finding the tie between your teen’s passion and their diet.
Talk to a nutritionist
If you’re having trouble getting your teen to eat healthily, there’s no shame in talking to a professional. Nutritionists and dieticians are both excellent options when thinking about how to adjust your teen’s eating habits. Your teen may avoid eating certain foods due to anxiety about the food’s color, texture, or potential effects on their body. Professionals can help identify any of these potential phobias and help your teen understand the repercussions of their habits. They can also give you and your teen resources for dealing with health moving forward. Another thing to consider is how teens often resent advice from their parents, regardless of their merit. Hearing the same words from a professional may strike a chord in your teen and finally get them to begin eating healthy.
Look at the books
While the web is an excellent resource, printed publications also provide great options for recipes and strategies for healthy eating. Magazines like Sunset Magazine and Bon Appetite provide articles on nutrition and plenty of well-balanced, yummy recipes you can make for you and your teen. Going through these magazines with your teen could even be a fun activity to find new recipes you’d both enjoy. If you want, you can even have your teen help you prepare the meal! This way, they learn valuable cooking skills as well as the work that goes behind preparing a good meal. This might trigger an interest in food that causes them to expand their palette and gravitate towards more healthy foods! Plus, it means less work for you in the kitchen.
It can be hard to break the established eating habits of your teenager, but we hope that some of these tips prove useful in moving your teen towards a healthier diet. Eating right makes a positive impact across just about every aspect of a person’s life, and if you can show this to your teen, it won’t be long until they become interested in their own nutrition. Stay supportive and stay patient, and there’s no doubt you’ll get your point across to your teen!