Feeding Your Teenager: Healthy Eating for Teens

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Adolescence is a time of tremendous change. As teens mature, they make more food choices on their own, often in the company of influential peers.

But even as teens become more autonomous, it’s still up to their parents to provide them with good examples and nutritious foods. Here are some tips on how to go about doing that.

Help Teens Make Good Choices

Deciding what to eat and how much to exercise is part of growing up. But too often, a child’s choices give health the short shrift. Teens may lack the skills and motivation to do what they should to stay healthy.

“Balancing school, sports, social activities, and work presents a major challenge to eating healthy,” says Kendrin Sonneville, MS, RD, who specializes in teen Hummus or peanut butter and whole grain crackers

  • Bowl of whole grain cereal; fruit; low-fat milk
  • Vegetables and low-fat yogurt dip
  • Reduced-fat mozzarella cheese sticks and low-fat crackers
  • Low-fat microwave popcorn topped with grated Parmesan cheese; 100% juice
  • Yogurt with whole grain cereal mixed in
  • Low-fat cottage cheese and whole grain crackers or whole grain toast
  • Nuts; 100% juice.
  • Pick Your Battles

    The house is stocked with healthy foods. You’re home most nights for dinner. You talk with your teen about skipping soda in favor of low-fat milk, and choosing grilled chicken sandwiches instead of fried at the fast-food restaurant. You even bought inline skates so you can bond with your teen while working out. Still, their eating and exercising is less than exemplary. What should you do?

    Back off, for starters.

    “Avoid power struggles over food,” says Sonneville. Strict control over what a child eats can backfire. “Your teen may respond by over- or under-eating just to assert his independence,” she says.

    “Teens know they shouldn’t drink soda or eat fries. They also know they shouldn’t smoke or drive fast — but they do,” Geller says. “That’s the nature of the beast.”

    Still, there’s hope, especially when your own lifestyle is on the right track.

    “I like to look at it this way: By educating them and providing healthy foods, you’re giving teens the skills to use now or at a later date,” Geller says. “As a parent, that’s about as much as you can do.”