"Ugh, you have got to be kidding! Please don't make me eat that!" Teenagers can be some of the pickiest eaters on the planet. But are they really being picky or are they just exercising their newly discovered freedoms? For some, it might actually be both. So, how do you get teens to eat healthier foods? As a mom with a full house, it's tricky finding things everyone will agree on, including toddlers and teens - two of the pickiest age groups, in my experience. If you want to increase healthy eating habits in teens, you'll likely need to make some adjustments.
Pack interesting, yet healthy lunches. If you pack your teen a lunch that contains her least favorite veggies, expect her to toss or trade it. This may mean she ends up with vending machine goodies or fast food. Neither is likely to be a healthy choice. Instead, always pack her favorite fruits, grains, veggies, and more. Use tasty, but healthy sides and dips to accent the main course. Opt for fat free ranch dressing if your teen likes to dip his veggies. Use fat free yogurt as a fruit dip. Spreadable fruit is a healthier option than jellies and jams. Let her choose from a list of suggested items. This helps ensure she likes what she is eating. Remember to have her pick options from each food group to keep the meals balanced.
Always have healthy snacks in plain view. Leave sliced fruits, veggies, and healthy dips out on the counter near snack times. Teens are likely to grab and much if something is right there. Unsalted mixed nuts, carob chips, low-fat cheese and whole grain crackers, and dried fruits are also easy and tempting. If you leave out snacks like this, your teens may not even think about the other stuff that's unhealthy. They'll already be full from the healthy options. After a while, they can become so accustomed to this, that similar healthy eating options may be second nature.
Don't have unhealthy options around. If access to unhealthy choices is unavailable, teens are more likely to choose healthy eating habits. In this case, they may be doing it because they have no other choice. But it also can create a subconscious pattern that stays with them. If they aren't accustomed to unhealthy foods, they are less likely to crave them. You can't control what is available at their friend's houses. But creating a habit consisting of mainly nutritious options assists in developing healthy eating habits for life.
Talk about your own struggles. You may think your teens aren't listening and they may roll their eyes at you when you tell them certain things. But they definitely hear you and they listen more than you think they do. They just may not want you to know that information. Tell your teens about the mistakes you made as a teen regarding healthy eating habits. Explain how you solved those issues and the differences that occurred because of the lifestyle changes.
Watch movies surrounding nutrition issues. Sometimes teens may need to see the damages unhealthy eating can cause. Scientific videos, as well as dramatic life stories are helpful in this area. Both the technical and lifestyle aspect are needed to illustrate the point fully. When your teen sees the impact that healthy eating habits can make on his life as a whole, it will become easier to make positive choices.
Teaching your teen about healthy eating habits is not always about lecturing. It's ore about proactive consistency and allowing the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. Talk to your teen's doctor about proper dietary habits.
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