This is the first in a series on teenage nutrition and eating habits. How can we guide adolescents toward healthy and practical food choices?
One day my teenage son was visiting my sister-in-law, who has small children. My sister-in-law offered lunch to my son. She told me later that he “inhaled” the food!
Larger quantities are only the start. Teenage eating habits can make the picky and irregular habits of toddlers seem like child’s play.
In the first part of the series I’d like to address the many reasons that feeding teens and making sure they get nutritious meals is a challenge.
Also see Part II: 10 Tips for Steering Teens to Healthy Food Choices
Challenges of Teenage Nutrition and Eating Habits
- Fads and fashions. My teenage daughter has become a vegetarian. She makes good food choices. But sometimes adolescents latch onto fad diets that compromise their health.
- Peer pressure. At this age, children need to fit in more than ever. If everyone else is eating a burger, they’ll get one too.
- Dieting and Appearance. Teenagers care intensely about their looks. While this may encourage them to exercise and watch their weight, they might be willing to take shortcuts to get there with extreme dieting.
- Obesity. During adolescence, weight issues may begin or exacerbate.
- Emotions. Overactive hormones lead to emotional ups and downs, which can affect appetites and eating habits.
- Schedules. Who is busier than a teen? When mealtimes roll around, they are either out of the house or asleep. My teens have been known to scrounge for a meal well after midnight.
- Exercise. Many teens are into bodybuilding, gymnastics or other sports that burn calories. These sports may also require extra calcium or protein. Long-term health has to considered here as well.
- Independence. Teens are nearly adults, and don’t want to be told what to do. Sometimes we get frustrated because their eating choices interfere with our menus, shopping plans, schedules, and budgets. This leads to power struggles, which may be taking place around other issues as well.
- Quantities. As I mentioned in the introduction, growing children can eat much more than we imagined. Dealing with the sheer amounts of food. Finding the refrigerator empty one day, and full of leftovers the next, is enough to drive any home chef insane.
Readers, I have a few ideas about how to address these challenges. But I’d like to hear more from you for my next post. Even if you don’t have teens, you probably know a few and have been one yourself.
How can we guide teens toward nutritious eating without harming our relationship?
: image PinkStock Photos!
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