Fostering Better Food Habits In Your Teenager

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Fostering Better Food Habits In Your Teenager

Does your teenager have poor eating habits? As your child becomes more independent with their food choices, it’s likely that they’re going for unhealthy options when left to their own devices. These days, most teens eat too much, don’t eat enough, or are eating poorly planned diets. Moreover, recent research shows that 1 in 5 teenagers are struggling with disordered eating behaviors, which may develop into eating disorders.

Teaching your teen to have a healthy relationship with food may help to prevent the development of problematic eating behaviors while giving your child a sense of ownership. This puts the pressure off of having to make perfect food choices all the time. More importantly, it teaches them to nourish their bodies without feeling guilt. Here’s how you can foster better food habits in your teenager.

Encourage Your Teen to Eat Breakfast

whole foods breakfast with oatmeal, yogurt and blueberries

Ever watched a movie and there’s a scene where the mom prepares a sumptuous spread for breakfast, hoping that her family will enjoy it, only for her teen to make a beeline to the door and declare that she isn’t hungry? Unfortunately, this scenario is rooted in real life as according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 30 percent of teens skip breakfast. Many older teens don’t have the time for it, while others skip their morning meal in the hopes of avoiding weight gain. 

Most teenagers don’t know that breakfast can actually  boost metabolism, which can help to control weight and improve their academic performance. Research also shows that eating breakfast can boost the brain’s dopamine levels, which can help control cravings for sweets and sugary foods. If your teenager feels tired or lethargic at school or they’re constantly snacking on sweets, let them know the benefits of a healthy breakfast and make sure to provide it. Consider waking them up early so they can have a leisurely meal. 

Another reason why teens skip breakfast is because they don’t like being alone at the table, so join them and make it part of your routine to eat breakfast together.  If that’s not an option, prepare food that they can eat on the go, such as a sandwich or a breakfast wrap. When made with wholesome ingredients such as meat, eggs, and vegetables, a sandwich or wrap can provide the nutrition they need to help them manage their weight and improve their ability to focus in school. 

Provide Healthy Snack Choices

It’s all too easy to buy loads of chips, cookies, and sugary drinks so your family can always have things to snack on. While having these occasionally won’t hurt your teen’s health, the problem is that teenagers tend to gravitate towards junk food or snacks with empty calories when they’re feeling a bit peckish. In fact, a study reveals that 67 percent of calories consumed by adolescents come from ultra-processed foods like chips and frozen pizza. Eating too much of these increases your child’s risks of developing certain health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. So, you need to reframe the way your teenager thinks about snacks, and provide better ones for them to consume.

Instead of junk food, fill your fridge with things that are tasty, but are better for your teen’s health. Think about buying some fruit, then cut them up and store them in containers so your teenager can help themselves whenever they want a snack. You can also make a big batch of trail mix with nuts, bits of dark chocolate, and some dried fruit, then place it on the counter where everyone can access it. Some teenagers love to experiment with food, so provide ingredients such as yogurt and sugar-free chocolate syrup so they can make their own parfaits. If your teens love soda, get a soda maker so they can make healthier versions of their favorite carbonated drinks with fresh fruit. 

Limit Food Deliveries

Older teens often have their food delivered since they’re too busy with schoolwork or they’re unable to make their own meals. A recent survey has shown that the average young adult uses food delivery apps about 1.8 times per week, and older teens who are full-time students are the most frequent users of these apps. Food delivery apps can increase your teen’s access to unhealthy food, so teach them to find ways to limit their usage of these apps. Consider teaching them to make easy to cook meals, or help them to do meal prep that’s good for an entire week. You may also want to teach them how to use an airfryer since they can make lots of healthy meals with this appliance even with minimal cooking skills. 

Fostering healthy eating habits in your teen can benefit their overall wellbeing. Consider these tips to teach your teenager to eat well so they can feel good about their food choices and have a better relationship with food.  

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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