How can I teach my junk-eating teen to eat healthily?
Real Mom Problem
“My girls tend to eat fruits, veggies, and they love cheese. But they also want to eat frozen stuff like pizza rolls. And chips and cookies. It's sometimes a challenge to balance things out...”
- 1. Eat well as an example for your kids, and don't put too much focus on losing weight
- 2. Consider having your teens help you grocery shop and/or cook if they're interested
- 3. Keep junk out of the house and make healthy snacks readily available
- 4. Try making healthier versions of their favorite packaged or fast foods
- 5. Talk about the personal benefits of eating well, like more energy for sports or better skin
Real Mom Solutions
Helping your teens establish healthy eating habits will benefit them later in life. See how these moms encourage their teens to just say no to junk and enjoy good-for-you foods.
Don't Make Junk an Option
We decided to work on the whole family on the best way to eat nutritious meals. We discovered that my daughter's extra weight was probably water weight because her salt intake was about 350% above the normal recommended amount! Most processed foods -- chicken nuggets, pizza, lunch meat, etc. -- were full of salt! We started buying Mrs. Dash instead of salt and cut down on processed stuff. I make my own bread which has one teaspoon of salt per loaf. She's now growing into her body and loving it!
I would start with simple changes. Don't buy junk food, make water your family's sole--or at least primary--beverage, serve an apple or a big pile of veggies before meals, build meals out of fruits and vegetables, and cut back on meat and dairy.
Cut out the sweets, processed foods, and high calorie drinks in the house. Not just for your teen, but for everyone (none of it is good for anyone). Start doing more active things as a family -- good for everyone.
Keep the Focus on Health, Not Weight
I am overweight and working really hard. My son is starting to look more like me and his dad. So, we have had open and honest conversations about healthy weight, healthy eating, and activity. Food is hard. Trust me, I know. I struggle every day. But if you stock the kitchen with the right stuff, then your teen will eventually eat it because there is nothing else. Take the word "weight" out of it and just promote a healthy lifestyle.
I have been working on teaching her what is in the crappy food she wants and what it does to your body.
Teach your teen about portions and nutrition so she can learn to take care of herself (instead of you just doing it for her). Leave weight out of the equation but teach her about healthy choices and that junk food can be eaten in moderation. If you completely deprive her of treats, she will probably splurge whenever she gets a hold of them.
Keep the focus on being "healthy" and not on weight so you don't give your teen a complex. When I talk about food it is not about weight, but what foods do for your body. My daughter is starting to notice that she FEELS better when she eats better and drinks more water.
Try Healthy Treats They'll Gobble Up
I give them fruit, fresh veggies with ranch, crackers, cheese cubes, yogurt, etc. Once in a while they will get pizza rolls and some cut up veggies, but I try to stay healthy. I am creative and do things differently, like cut veggies up differently and serve with different dip options.
Standard after-school snacks at our house are: hummus with veggies (carrots, sugar snaps, jicama, etc.); fruit salad (apple, clementine, kiwi, dried cranberries, crushed pecans, blueberries); nachos (baked tortilla chips, refried beans, cheese, avocado mashed with salsa); tortilla pizza (whole grain tortilla, sauce, cheese, shredded broccoli stems, Yves pepperoni).
Sunbutter sandwiches (my kids have peanut allergies), air-popped popcorn with garlic salt and no butter, pretzels, apples, pears, or leftovers if there are any.