Teaching Teens Healthy Eating

Healthy eating begins early in life, exposing our kids to any and all types of foods, educating their young palates and encouraging a wide variety of tastes.

Many of us who are the parents of teenagers today grew up in the 70s and 80s when junk food was in, a burger and fries were considered meat and potatoes, and the only people who ate healthy food were labeled as health nuts or hippies. Some of us actually ate a balanced lunch at school each day, either bringing food from home or buying the school lunch. But many others succumbed to the candy bar machines, potato and corn chips, and of course, cans of soda. This unhealthy trend continued into college, for those who attended, and in many colleges, there was a phenomenon that came to be known as "the freshman 10" referring to the 10 pounds gained by many college freshman after eating so much junk food.

Now that we're all grown up and know the ugly truth about cholesterol, trans fats, and carbs, we know better, but our kids will still tend toward the unhealthy eating trends unless we teach them early and train them to care for their bodies properly.

Healthy eating begins early in life, exposing our kids to any and all types of foods, educating their young palates and encouraging a wide variety of tastes. Healthy eating is established when kids are old enough, usually in their teen years, to understand exactly how their bodies operate and what happens when we eat the wrong types of foods. Still, teens are often of the mind set that they will always be healthy and always be thin; we need to be consistent and persistent when we educate them, talking to them about our health as we get older and showing them what steps to take as young people, so their older years will be healthy ones.

Encourage your teen to eat healthy foods by having a wide variety available. If a kid has to go to a lot of trouble to cook something healthy when he's only looking for a quick snack, he'll opt for a candy bar or package of chips. If you have carrot sticks and low fat dip or cheese and low sodium crackers available, he'll eat that as readily as he would the unhealthy foods. Provide flavored water and juices in place of sodas, but also explain to your teen what the citric acid in the soda does to his teeth and gums. Teach him about the benefits of drinking water and lots of it.

When you go out to eat, talk about what is in the foods you want to order. Will a grilled chicken burger be just as good to the taste, but much better for your body than a fried chicken burger? How about a salad as opposed to French fries? Educate yourself so you can explain to your kids about sauces and sodium content, and carb and protein ratios.

Education and encouragement is important, but eating is also supposed to be fun. Don't always be a downer to your teen. Pizza and sodas once in a while is great fun, so let him eat and enjoy. Burgers and fries every so often won't hurt him. Have soda in the house for your teen and his friends, but explain that it has to last; have him ration it out. As with all things regarding teens, find the balance and your teen will respect what you say and do what you've taught him to do.

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