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Encouraging teens to eat healthy

Teens are confronted with lots of temptations, including unhealthy eating choices such as vending machine snacks and greasy fast food. Convincing your teen to opt for fruits and veggies can be tough when their friends are chowing down on French fries, but it can pay off in long-term health. Try these five tips to help your teen make better nutritional choices.

Teen girl eating apple

1Emphasize short-term benefits.

Teens are unlikely to be motivated significantly by the long-term benefits of healthy eating, but they may respond to the short-term benefits. Emphasize that consuming a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet will help them feel better, have more energy, grow taller, gain muscle mass and look better than eating a diet rich in empty calories, fat and sugar.

2Teach portion sizes.

The teenage years are a prime time for adolescents to start developing unhealthy eating habits in an effort to maintain or lose weight. Some teens may try fad diets, skip meals or even develop eating disorders. To help your teen develop a positive relationship with food, don’t talk about food restriction or dieting; instead, discuss portion sizes so she can make choices that don’t involve excessive intake. Encourage her to purchase smaller meals when eating out with friends or to split a larger meal with someone else. This way, she won’t feel like she’s restricted from eating certain foods; she just needs to exercise a reasonable level of self control.

3Start the day right.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and you can take steps to make sure your teen starts his day off right. Make sure that healthy breakfast foods containing nutrient-rich carbohydrates and lean protein are easily accessible in the mornings. Consider the following options:

  • Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and a banana
  • Egg and turkey bacon breakfast burrito in a whole-wheat wrap
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and granola

4Lead by example.

Your teen is watching your eating habits. If you want him to make healthy choices, model them for him. By buying, preparing and eating healthy choices at home, your teen will be more likely to make those same choices when he’s on his own.

5Stress positive choices.

Teach your teen how to identify and make positive food choices when she’s out with friends. Try going over a fast food or restaurant menu together. Point out healthier options and ways to make her orders more nutritious. For instance, she could choose grilled chicken over fried, have sandwiches made without mayonnaise, and ask for dressings and salad toppings to be served on the side. Remind your teen that she doesn’t need to eat until she’s stuffed; when she gets full, she can stop eating and have the remainder of the meal boxed up for later. The more knowledge and resources you provide for making healthy choices, the more likely your teen is to make them.

More tips for raising healthy teens

Cooking with teens
Understanding your teen’s nutritional need
Study says teens’ fitness could make them smarter

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