10 Tips to Help Teens to Eat Right

Healthy teens run on beachThis is the second part in a series on healthy eating for teens.

In Teenagers and Healthy Eating: The Challenge,  I laid out some of the difficulties teens face when it comes to eating right. Today I give 10 tips for painlessly guiding teenagers toward healthy food choices.

  1. Set an example. Even when it seems like they aren’t paying attention, or doing the opposite of everything you say, your teens are watching. Pay attention to your eating habits attitude. Are you always snacking, complaining about your weight, or obsessing over calories? You can be open about your struggles, but only up to a point. Try to save the rest for when your teens aren’t around. Parents’ eating habits are the number one influence on their kids adult habits, so think long-term.
  2. Eat meals as a family. I know this is easier said than done, but make a point of eating together at least several times a week.
  3. Educate. Explain to your kids about your food choices. Why is steaming better than frying? What makes a balanced meal? What vitamins and minerals are important? In small doses, let them know the short and long-term effects of unhealthy eating.
  4. Get teens involved. Teenagers are old enough to be responsible for planning a menu or cooking a whole meal or dish. If you haven’t cooked with them until now, it’s not too late to start. Talk about choosing recipes, estimating quantities, and cooking techniques. Take them to the store and show them how to compare prices and choose produce.
  5. Respect their preferences. Teens can surprise you in their willingness to try new things. But don’t try to talk them out of their choices–work with them to find the healthiest alternatives within the limitations they set.
  6. Influence their friends when you can. Teens may worry that their friends will make fun of them for eating healthy foods. Make your house a fun place to hang out, where (mostly) healthy food is served. My teens have even brought their friends into the kitchen to cook. When your child is asked to bring food for a party, suggest something homemade—the friends may even be impressed.
  7. Keep healthy foods available, both cooked and uncooked. If you wait until your teen is hungry to start cooking, it’s too late. Teens often eat whatever is in sight, although they may complain. I’ve learned that the more vegetables I serve, the more gets eaten.
  8. Encourage kids to take food from home instead of buying fast food. A stylish insulated bag can help, along with setting spending limits that allow some choice.
  9. Know your limitations. Make it clear to your teens how far you are willing to do in terms of shopping, food preparation, budget, and menu choices. Becoming a martyr to your kids’ food whims never helps.
  10. Know when to intervene. If you suspect that your teen has an eating disorder, speak about it with a professional and bring the child for treatment as necessary.
Ultimately, our teens will grow up and make their own choices. All we can do is guide them for the short time they live under our roof.

Do you use any of these techniques? How do you steer your kids toward healthier eating?


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Comments

  1. We do a couple of these, and have to work around a few others due to my kid’s reluctance to eat leftovers or carry anything that would serve as a lunch bag. We do have lots of healthy food around the house, and eat well and together more nights than not. He has helped me with my own family/vegetarian meal planning site, and understands nutrition pretty well. I’m working on him cooking more often, but he has mastered some basic, healthy things. I’m hoping when he starts living on his own he’ll want to make real, tasty food at home.

  2. We have two teen girls in the neighborhood that will invite themselves over if they find out we are having stir fry for dinner. Something that is a quick, no thought dinner at our house is a treat for them. lol

    I started making my kids lunches again last year because they weren’t making good choices buying their lunches. I think this is helping them tremendously with other food choices throughout the day. Especially since our son eats a ton right now at 13. School lunches aren’t near enough food for him and he’d just get unhealthy leftovers from all his friends.

    I try to ask them to come up with a meal idea each week (besides pizza) so I know they’ll at least have one preferred dinner. Definitely not easy since I usually get the “I don’t care” until I come up with something they don’t want. {sigh}

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