A healthy and balanced diet for teenagers? Teens eating fruits and vegetables rather than snacking on Doritos? Is that even possible? Yes, of course, it is. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that the rate of adolescent obesity quadruples to more than 20% in the past two decades and that 30% of adolescents are either obese or overweight, there are still healthy eating habits that you can begin teaching your teenagers.
Teenagers today are getting less protein, vitamin D, potassium, iron, fiber, and folate. They are eating more processed foods. Parents don’t have time to prepare healthy meals at home, so teens are more likely to eat takeout Chinese food now more than ever. Fast food has become a staple in every home. This should stop because it is affecting their physical and brain development.
Parents are always having a hard time with their teens’ diet. You may want to take a look at the food you served them over the years. Not that you’re at fault that you have to work 40 or more hours every week, but good eating habits are formed over the years. It doesn’t just happen with the snap of your finger. You can even bring them to a professional. A quick Google search for “nutritionists near me” will give you options where to take them.
Take It One Day at a Time
You don’t have to change their eating habits in an instance. Changing one habit a month is enough. There is no rush. They are young enough to change how they eat, so just incorporate a healthy eating habit once a month. Start with a small step such as adding fruits and vegetables to their meals every dinnertime.
Look at your pantry. Is it full of processed and sugary foods? How about sodas? Do you have a lot of those in your refrigerator? Slowly get rid of these things and start replacing them with healthier options. Don’t do it all at once that you are going to deprive them of their favorite snacks. Find healthier alternatives to their cereals and potato chips. Make sure to do your research so you find the tastiest alternatives. Although they are aware of the difference, they won’t mind it if the healthy stuff tastes good, too.
Focus on What Is Easy to Control
Start with what’s easy for you to control. Lunches and dinners are usually harder to control because these are the highlights of their meals. If you suddenly feed them with veggies and none of their usual favorites, then they’ll resist these changes immediately. Unhealthy snacks should be your first target. It is those that usually contain a lot of processed and sugar-rich ingredients. Some ideas for healthier snacks are Greek yogurt, apples and peanut butter, and whole-wheat pita chips.
Lead the Way
Act around food the way you want your teens to behave. Lead by example and not by words. The adage that action speaks louder than words is true. Don’t be that parent who eats junk food before bed and yet constantly scolds their teenage kids for the way they eat potato chips. Show them what a healthy relationship with food is like. One of the things that health experts agree on is the importance of eating dinner together. That encourages healthy eating habits. Also, don’t talk relentlessly about dieting because your kids will feel judged.
Stay Calm, Don’t Panic
It is not the end of the world if your kids eat sugar-rich desserts and junk food. If they eat at a fast-food restaurant with their friends, don’t panic. You are only going to push them further away from your goal of them having healthier eating habits. Instead, encourage them to eat healthy snacks at home. Make healthy snacks available. You’ll be surprised that they’re fine with them. When eating out, don’t control them as much as you do back home. Give them space to make their own transition into healthier eating habits.
Teach Them with a Purpose
Why do you want your kids to eat healthily? What’s in it for them? Talk to them about why it’s important to eat more fruits and vegetables and to stay away from junk food. You are raising them to be responsible for the way they eat once they are in college. If they are athletes, then explain to them what certain unhealthy foods can do to their bodies and thus, their skills. Don’t ever attack their appearance but do link nutrition with their interests and passions.
Healthy eating habits for teens are not far-fetched. It’s possible to change their ways. You have to be patient with them, though, because it is going to take a lot of time for them to transition from eating junk foods to carrot and cucumber sticks.