You've probably noticed how adolescents turn a deaf ear to parental advice. The reply you get on almost everything you say is: I know mom (or dad). However, there are ways to encourage a teen to stick to some sensible eating habits.
A good place to start is with a nourishing breakfast. Fresh fruit, skim milk, wholegrain toast, yogurt, and assorted low-sugar cereals are excellent choices.
For those teens who just won't eat anything in the morning because they are too busy getting the day's "look" just right, whip up a breakfast smoothie: a banana, cold milk, (cow, soy or almond milk) a dash of wheat germ or oats and a spoonful of honey whipped in the blender will appeal to even finicky eaters. Strawberries, blueberries, mangoes or peaches can be substituted for the banana. Adding an spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter will provide some protein for energy. Yes, it's extra work when your mornings are rushed, but it's worth it to have a child start the day with a boost of healthy energy.
Unless your teen packs a lunch, the noontime meal is generally beyond parental control. However, you can limit the junk food damage by seeing that a fruit and/or a piece of cheese are slipped into a school bag or jacket pocket.
When teens are around the house, the refrigerator is one huge magnet. Keep yours stocked with a good selection of unsweetened fruit juices, skim or low fat milk, platters of vegetable nibblers - celery and carrot sticks, radishes, broccoli and cauliflower florets, etc., and a variety of fresh fruit. Instead of greasy chips, have popcorn available.
Ditto a supply of wholesome cookies (oatmeal, for example). Crackers (reduced salt variety) and cheese are great filler- uppers to keep on hand.
Involve your teens
There is no better way to ensure your teen learns to make healthy food choices than to have them actually involved in food preparation. Ask your teen to help plan dinner menus and give them complete charge of at least one meal a week. Having to shop for and prepare food is a challenge for today's fast-food oriented teen, but the boost to their self-confidence will show up in their eating habits.
If you have made it a practice over the years to encourage your child to help select fruit and vegetables when shopping and to help prepare meals, you will be pleasantly surprised by their kitchen-savvy now that they are in their teens. The old saying "actions speak louder than words" is very true when encouraging teenagers to make health-conscious food choices. If a child is accustomed to eating fresh vegetables, lots of fruits, salads and wholegrain breads and cereals, these items will continue to be a staple part of their diet as they grow up.
Be a good role model
In addition to proper nutrition, a teen should get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Encourage participation in sports - again by setting a good example. Parents who go for daily bike rides, jog or power walk or go to the gym regularly, swim, zumba or play tennis – any regular exercise activity - are showing their children the importance of being physically active.
If too much TV and phone/tablet/computer time is sabotaging your family's time, hold a family meeting and see where you can cut down on the time spent in the company of electronics. Then discuss how this time can be turned into physical activity.
Another aspect of teen health is body image and girls aren't the only ones who moan over being too fat or having greasy hair or pimples. Here, again, encouraging a sensible diet and lots of exercise will be very beneficial. If skin problems like acne do develop, you may want to take your teen to a dermatologist. He or she can determine if it is a serious case requiring medical intervention or an allergic reaction or diet-related. Stress and hormones account for a lot of skin flare-ups.
Having a balance routine
Encourage your teen to keep a calendar marked with upcoming exams, special activities and events, then plan "de stress" time prior to the date. These include getting enough sleep, cutting back on body-stressing junk food and eating lots of fresh fruit, pampering themselves with a favorite activity and getting more exercise such as going for long walks.
Parents need to realize that teenagers are going through really stressful (to them) times: large doses of patience and encouragement will have a big impact on keeping your teen emotionally healthy. Keeping a sense of humor is absolutely essential to your health during your child's adolescence. A smile and a chuckle can go a long way in helping you through the "teenage journey''.