How do you get teens to stay on course with real food and not go overboard on junk food? This is a question I’ve gotten many times, so I’m here to share some thoughts for parents on a mission to help their teens with healthy eating habits.
I’m gonna be honest and say that this is no easy task. I think the best you can do is to model eating real food at home and only offer healthy real foods at home. When they go out they will likely eat junk because let’s face it –that’s often all there is. However, once they know how they feel from eating healthy and eating junk they may learn right quick on their own that they don’t want to over indulge like everyone else.
” You teach, you teach, you teach” ~ Sally Fallon
Also, teach them what options they have when they are out. For example, if all their friends are going to get fast food -teach them the best options. Even though it is fast food you can lessen the ‘blow’ if they understand why soda, fries, fried chicken fingers are not a good idea. However, maybe just a burger, better yet a bun-less burger would be okay and preferably bottled water. They may or may not listen, but they will notice how they feel compared to when they eat healthy food at home.
You also want to give your teen the freedom to make their own choices, so they can learn from them. Kids with serious health issues may need more support -like a teen support group with other kids who have similar issues. It’s a time of life where peer pressure is the greatest and most often kids put that pressure on themselves. For some reason ‘conformity’ is common, but as they become older (more confident) teens they’ll learn that it’s okay to be who you are, even if you are different and maybe, just maybe they won’t mind eating differently in public with other teens.
I say empower them to make good choices and keep modeling healthy habits without ultimatums or too much pressure….else they totally revolt!
Pick one or two things to focus on the most with a teenager -if you can’t win all the battles over food choices with your teen, what are the top two to focus on? Here is what I suggest…..
Focus on what your teens are drinking
Cornell University researchers have found that the consumption of soda and fruit drinks has tripled among American adolescents since 1978. I don’t know what the figures were in 1978 but no amount of fruit juice and soda consumption is going to support a growing body.
There are a multitude of problems with this scenario -I’ve been out and noticed that teens really do drink soda, Gatorade, even Red Bull energy drinks and the list goes on. This is a nightmare on so many levels. The amount of sugar alone is worth being VERY concerned about, not to mention the chemicals, dyes and caffeine that they contain.
Caffeine is a diuretic and so is juice believe it or not, it causes you to lose water and also taxes your adrenal glands and increases your body’s need to produce insulin and consuming soda and caffeine will create a vicious cycle of causing you to crave more and continue on the slippery slope. Sugar depletes valuable nutrients, as does caffeine, the chemicals and dyes hit your liver hard and it’s already working hard to adjust to the body’s new hormonal rhythm.
Since this is a MAJOR time of growth, drinking sodas is absolutely not a good idea. Not to mention the phosphoric acid in soda can negatively affect the health of the bones – if you’re getting a disproportionate amount of phosphorus compared to the amount of calcium you’re getting, that could lead to bone loss. AND….on top of that you are not getting hydrated. Keep in mind, water is the most important macro-nutrient for the human body.
About 60% of our body mass is comprised of water. Water is needed in all bodily fluids and is involved in almost every bodily function. Water cannot be stored in the body. We can produce about 8% of our bodies water needs through biochemical processes in the body. The remaining 92% must be consumed through foods and beverages in the diet. Without clean water we could not experience optimum health. Caffeine, can also interfere with calcium absorption (in addition many teens start drinking coffee and other highly caffeinated beverages).
What a teenager drinks is absolutely one of the most important focuses I believe. Teach kids to like kombucha instead of soda, get them hooked on creamy rich whole raw milk (if dairy is tolerated), make homemade herbal teas that are loaded with minerals that will be critical for growth.
Consider buying them a good portable sport water bottle with a filter so they can drink pure water wherever they may be. Teach them the detriment they could be causing with things like Gatorade and soda. Teach them to choose hydrating beverages like coconut water if they are on a sports team and always have it available for them. Or make your own electrolyte drink – like this DIY Electrolyte Drink.
Get even more great ideas in my post; ‘How To Ditch Processed Foods: Replacing, Soda, Juice and Other Sugary Beverages‘.
Next, I’d focus on healthy fats because America still isn’t getting this part of their diet right. It’s gonna be especially important to convince the girls -though you could help them understand that’s likely why they are craving ice cream.
The first priority would be to transition your own home to only using good quality fats. No more bad rancid seed oils, trans fats or hydrogenated fats etc…..they do not build healthy cells or hormones. Healthy fats make healthy hormones.
Then make sure you are only cooking with the right good fats at every meal.
To determine how much fat your teenager can tolerate and assimilate it’s helpful to know their current oxidation rate. If they are in slow oxidation, they likely won’t be able to handle too many dietary fats and that case will need to focus more on protein and carbohydrates.
You can find out what your child’s oxidation status is via hair tissue mineral analysis. That is what I did for my teen boys and it turned out one is a slow oxidizer and one is currently a fast oxidizer. My fast oxidizer can handle more fats, they actually help to satiate him and slow his insatiable appetite down a bit. My slow oxidizer needs more protein (otherwise he gets uber moody). They both need all the macro-nutrients in their diet, but in different amounts.
Feed Them A Healthy Breakfast Every Day
Okay, I always tend to get over zealous..here is a third thing to consider.
One of the reasons kids binge on junk is because they are looking for ENERGY. They are in a stage of rapid growth and need a ton of fuel to get them through this time of their life. Unfortunately, many teens are already in a lowered stage of health with both tired (or stressed) adrenals and thyroid. This makes their need for fuel even more intense.
Of course there are other reasons why kids crave junk food – it is pretty darn addictive. However, once the body is given pure fuel (aka; nutrients) it starts to crave more nutrients from real foods. One excellent way to start your kids off every day for better success in all ways, is to ensure they eat a healthy breakfast.
This is tricky on several levels because often teens have to get up very early and spend more time getting ready to make time for a meal. Also, they may not be very hungry this early (read more here about why this could be the case).
Regardless, as a parent you can create strategies to get your kiddo out the door with a healthy nutrient dense brain enhancing breakfast. It’s not hard, it just takes a bit of plan. Get your teen on board to help you come up with several healthy breakfasts they are willing to eat that you are satisfied with. Smoothies are one idea that most teens love!
Healthy & FUN Foods For Teens
What are some fun foods for teens and their friends that is also a good choice nutrition wise?
Fun foods for teenage boys are EASY (girls I’m not as sure about since I don’t have any). Homemade healthy ice cream with plenty of good fats is one option I think would go over well with any teen -(but not super feasible if you don’t have an ice cream maker).
My experience with boys is they like chicken wings, burgers, chili, tacos, grass fed beef jerky, milk shakes, bacon and eggs -and all of these options can be made healthfully. As can desserts – at home I make fudge, brownies, popsicles, pie and more and I do it all low sugar with healthy fats. I even hand cut chips either potato or sweet potato and fry them in coconut oil, lard or bacon fat. These are healthy fats that tolerate a high heat without the fat becoming unstable and then bad for you.
If you need help getting your teen’s health in a better place, consider getting a hair tissue mineral analysis done on them. This test will give you a specific game plan to work on your teen’s unique biochemistry. It can help girls have better moods and cycles. It can improve their sleep. It can help boys not be as aggressive or even passive and apathetic. My oldest son happily gets up and takes his supplements all on his own. Supplements can really help kids, especially when their diet isn’t optimal outside of the home. To know what supplements are right for your teen, you don’t want to guess on what they should take. That is another amazing benefit of the hair analysis plan -it will tell you exactly what they need.
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