Lately the topic of what teens are eating keeps popping up at my house. I feel I should comment on teens and their health again because the message isn't getting through. As parents, we do need to let go and let our teens make some of their own choices. It is our job to set a good example and help them make good choices along the way. We have to accept some rebellion but try not to let a lunch of pizza, chips and french fries become the norm for your child. And yes, that is exactly what kids eat at school along with Pop Tarts and cokes for a snack.
Kids just want to fit in with their friends and not stand out in any way that makes them seem weird. Those who are used to eating healthy foods to begin with will probably make the best choices. Even though my son likes eat out with his friends at fast food restaurants, he chooses water over sodas a good bit of the time. It's a small victory. So how do you convince your stubborn teen to eat better?
First of all, keep healthy alternatives around the house. Put a bowl of bananas on the table. Keep yogurt and tea, milk or G-2s in the refrigerator. Set out a veggie tray and dip or a bowl of grapes when friends are over. Kids like to crack their own nuts like peanuts and pistachios. Don't buy junk food and soda. Offer to make your child a lunch to take to school. Insist on family meals several times a week and serve plenty of vegetables. Make sure you are setting a good example by eating wisely yourself.
If your child has a favorite athlete or is involved in a sport, point out that athletes need to eat very healthy meals to be in peak competitive shape. Ask your child's coach to talk with the kids about nutrition. An outsider can often make an impact when parents can't.
Involve your teens in meal preparation. Since they are probably home before you are, let them make dinner a few times a month. Buy the ingredients and leave the recipe on the counter. Or let them plan the dinner menu as long as it's well balanced and has some healthy components.
Make sure they understand the consequences of eating a poor diet filled with fat and sugar. They may enjoy watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution which will return to TV towards the end of May. The Biggest Loser may inspire them to be healthy so they don't end up like the people on the show.
Basically, it's a matter of educating your children as they grow about healthy nutrition just as you teach them anything else. I'm sure your children are the most precious thing in your life so safeguard their health until they are mature enough to do it themselves.