Handling teenagers can be quite challenging. Getting them to eat healthy is even harder. Teenagers tend to gravitate towards foods that are readily available, “tastier” and in most cases quite unhealthy. Junk food is their most common preference and no amount of cajoling can get them to eat healthier. Or is it?
Teenagers, just like adults and children, need to eat healthy so that they can get nutrients. According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) the rate of obesity among adults quadrupled to more than 20 percent, between 1980 and 2012. Now, 30 percent of adolescents are obese or overweight.
How can you as a parent help your teen to eat better and consequently get healthy?
1. Start small
Instead of suddenly producing a healthy meal with no alternatives, give them a fruit to accompany their dinner. Or add their favourite vegetable to their meal of chips and chicken.
If you have unhealthy snacks in the house, avoid buying more as they get consumed. Instead, start stocking up on healthier snacks to replace the unhealthy ones.
Allow treats once in a while. There’s nothing wrong with eating pizza, chips and fried chicken from time to time.
2. Seek their opinion
Ask them what their favourite foods are and look for ways to make them healthier. Teenagers often think that healthy food is tasteless. Show them that this is not the case by making their favourite meals using healthier ingredients. They will slowly change their minds and embrace healthy foods.
Where possible, ask for their help to prepare these meals. Getting them involved in the preparations will motivate them to eat. They will feel a sense of pride in what they have cooked.
Because teenagers don’t like to do anything that takes too much effort, ensure that you keep the healthy snacks at eye-level. This will make it easier for them to reach for healthy snacks.
4. Provide information
Look for information about healthy eating and make it available to your teen. Encourage them to go online and see what their peers are doing. Where possible, allow them to sign up to apps or websites where they can document their health journey and interact with other teens doing the same.
Show them how eating healthy is linked to something they want to achieve. For instance if they are involved in sports, a healthy diet will help in muscle growth and give them the energy they require to perform well.
5. Lead by example
Your teenager will emulate you. Make sure you eat with them and eat the same thing that they are eating. Avoid eating junk food. Stop constantly talking about dieting because they will feel like you are nagging them and your efforts to get them to eat healthy will fall on deaf ears.
Serve one meal and eat it as a family. As you eat, avoid commenting on what your teen is eating or how much they are eating.
Help your teen to feel part of the process and you will have them eating healthier in no time.