Teenagers & Healthy Eating- 8 Tips to Improve Your Teen’s Diet

Are you worried that your teen isn’t always eating healthy? Do you fear that they won’t meet the needs for their growing bodies? Do you want to learn how to help your teen eat healthier?

If so, then you should know that poor diet habits are not unique to your child – poor diet choices are very common among teenagers.

According to About Kids Health, a health education resource approved by healthcare experts from The Hospital for Sick Children, as our children grow, they become more independent and diet choices are one of the primary decisions they start making.

However, these choices aren’t always the best for them.

In fact, many teens don’t acquire the necessary nutrients from the major food groups and develop habits that concern us as parents.

Some of them include skipping breakfast and eating foods high in calories and fat and low in nutrients such as soft drinks, desserts, and fast food.

The problem occurs when parents don’t take the necessary measures to help their teens adopt healthier diet habits or don’t recognize the importance of following a healthy diet, especially during a period of growth.

Consequently, the child won’t just be put at a higher likelihood of weight-related issues, but also of health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, poor growth and development, eating disorders, hormonal issues, and more.

The challenge for busy parents is to become more informed about the importance of healthy nutrition and learn useful ways to encourage healthy diet habits in their children, while still showing a lot of understanding for the challenges they’re facing.

If the child has more serious problems in their relationship with food, it’s essential to react quickly and ask for professional help if needed.

Even though as parents we should respect own teens’ autonomy, we still need to be the ones who offer good examples and provide nutritious foods at home, advises Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD, nutrition consultant, and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Without doubt, despite how hard we try, our teens won’t always agree with what we have to say, especially when we’re trying to tell them “what’s good for them”.

This being said, if you’re struggling with an adolescent who’s making unhealthy food choices, then here’s some practical tips that are designed to help.

8 Tips to Help Better Your Teen’s Diet

     1. Educate them from early on

Before our teens enter adolescence, it’s ideal to have already discussed the reasons why a healthy diet matters.

And, we should continue doing this during adolescence. This is a period when they are able to understand why nutritious, whole foods are vital for them.

When they’re younger, we often tell them what they should and what they shouldn’t eat, but we don’t discuss the whys. Teen years are the perfect time to do this.

Since dieting and eating disorders are common among teens, it’s necessary to talk with them on a regular basis about the dangers of fad diets and starving themselves in order to lose weight.

Explain that this puts them at a higher risk of health problems and experiencing weight problems in adulthood. Another beneficial tool is watching quality documentaries about healthy vs. unhealthy foods together.

The information presented there could help them learn more about making better food choices and why that matters for their health and well-being.

     2. Lead by example

As our children learn a lot of things by watching us, if we want them to adopt healthy diet habits, it’s essential we follow a healthy diet too. Also, it’s pivotal to make our home a place with a various healthy food choices.

Though you may not always have the control over what they eat when they’re not home, it’s important to have control over the situation at home.

Whenever you can, try to cook a homemade meal and have your children next to you during the preparation process. Make meals in your home a food haven for your children.

Make sure your kitchen contains healthy, yet teen friendly foods and always emphasize preparing your own healthy pizza or healthy sandwiches over ordering takeout.

In this way, you’re helping your teen build real values, including values related to their diet and the choices they will make outside of home.

     3. Encourage them to pack lunch

Unfortunately, not many schools offer healthy food choices for students. This may make teens more likely to reach for a sandwich or chips and soda for lunch, which is in no way a healthy option.

So, carrying a lunchbox could be the best solution for such situations. When choosing a meal for your teen, opt for nutritious, yet easy-to-pack options they like.

However, not every teen will think that carrying their lunch in a box is “cool” or enjoy having to prepare their own lunch.

Also, many young people strive to be like their friends. So, if their peers eat sandwiches from the cafeteria, they may want to do the same, despite carrying their own lunch.

If your child is constantly refusing to take lunch from home or not eating it, it’s important to discuss the underlying reasons. Explain to your teen that there’s nothing embarrassing or uncool about eating healthy and taking care for your health.

Note that it’s in a way a privilege to be able to have versatile food on their plate, which isn’t something every child in the world is able to.

Always emphasize the benefits they will reap from healthy food and break any false beliefs about food which they may have.

     4. Avoid power struggles

When trying to help children understand the importance of healthy diet, many parents tend to become too controlling over the foods their teens are eating. Often at times, as Elizabeth M. Ward emphasizes, this can backfire.