Teaching Nutrition to Teens

All parents want their children to eat healthy so that they grow from tiny tots into healthy young adolescents. Unfortunately, when children reach adolescence, healthy eating habits get thrown out the window and get replaced with erratic eating behaviors, as teens spend more time outside the home with friends, playing sports, at school or work. Let Truestar teach you some tips to help your teens make healthier eating choices.

Teach your teens the importance of a healthy diet

Although teenagers have more freedom than kids to make their own choices, they’re choices aren’t always the best ones—at least, when it comes to healthy eating. Teens have decided to ditch the healthy brown bag lunch and instead eat out more, particularly fast food and unhealthy snacks and soda from school vending machines.

With childhood/teen obesity rates soaring, it’s important to teach our adolescents the importance of healthy eating. Let your teens know a healthy diet helps them:

• Meet the needs of rapid growth and development that occurs during adolescence.

• Provides optimum energy to get them through the day such as at school, work and during activity. A healthy diet can also keep your teen’s brain functioning at its best to improve learning and concentration.

• Look, feel and be well.

• Prevents against chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Also, a healthy diet prevents diet-related diseases such as anemia and osteoporosis.

Tips to help teens make healthier choices:

1. Accept the fact that teens will be eating out more. With teenagers’ hectic schedules and desire to spend more time with friends, eating out is a fact of teenage life. Teach your teens to buy small sizes (don’t super-size!) and encourage milk, water or 100% juices as beverages of choice, instead of soda. Let your teens know about the new healthy fast food options available such as salads, grilled chicken sandwiches and yogurt parfaits. See Truestar approved fast food options for more information.

2. Encourage your teens to read the nutrition labels of foods, to look at nutrition composition tables shown at many fast food restaurants or to use the Food Trakker. If teens see that a food is particularly high in calories or fat, they may choose healthier options. Teach your kids to avoid foods that list partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (i.e. trans fats) on the labels, as these fats are bad for heart health.

3. Emphasize the importance of foods that are rich in key nutrients for teen health such as calcium and iron. Calcium-rich foods include lowfat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), sardines, canned salmon (with bones), broccoli, soybean (tofu), kale, almonds and calcium fortified foods and beverages (fortified soymilk, orange juice with calcium). Iron-rich foods include dried beans, peas and lentils, lean meats, iron-fortified cereals, liver, green leafy vegetables, poultry, fish, whole grains and dried fruits. Vitamin C helps the body absorb the iron from some foods.

4. Teach teens that they don’t have to give up all the foods they love to eat healthy. Eating smaller portions of their favorite foods less often is one way to “have your cake and eat it too.” Also, making small modifications to favorite foods can help make them more nutritious, such as having baked potato chips instead of regular, frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, or choosing whole grain bread for subs instead of white.

5. Help teens understand the importance of eating three meals and two snacks per day such as those on the Truestar nutrition meal plans. Skipping meals makes you lack energy, promotes weight gain and might help your teens miss out on important nutrients for their growing body.

6. Model good eating habits and a healthy lifestyle, as your kids will likely follow your lead.

7. Encourage teens to be active and engage in physical activity daily such as after school sports, family hikes or Truestar-approved exercises.

Eat well and be well!