There is no question that one of the most important things parents can teach their children in today’s world is how to eat a healthy diet. The statistics on childhood obesity are startling now and only projected to continue going up in the coming years. Obesity can be a contributing factor in several serious, life-long health conditions including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and sleep apnea. Additionally, teens who struggle to maintain a healthy weight often experience social consequences including social discrimination and bullying. This can have a significant impact on self esteem, self worth, and performance in all areas of life. When you consider the immediate consequences and long term risks associated with being overweight, it is easy to see why helping teens build good dietary habits is so important.
As a parent, you are perfectly positioned to have a real and lasting impact on this part of your teenager’s life. Here are 6 ways you can help your teen develop and maintain healthy eating habits.
1. Be a Good Role Model
Children learn what they live and this holds true for what, how, and why they eat. If you have problems with your weight and/or have less than healthy eating habits, start by changing the example you are setting. For some families, making this kind of change together can also be a great bonding experience.
2. Get Back to Basics
Helping your child understand the mechanics of food as energy and the energy in/ energy out principle provides them with the right foundation to learn how to eat healthily now and throughout their life.
3. Ditch the Word Diet
Regardless of how the word should be used, diets and being on a diet has a specific meaning and connotation in our culture and describes a temporary way to reduce weight by eliminating food. However, dieting in this context is different from developing healthy eating habits. Dieting implies something temporary; healthy habits last a lifetime.
4. Make Healthy Food Accessible
One challenge for today’s teens is that healthy foods are often harder to come by than less healthy options. They lead busy lives and need lots of grab and go options to keep their energy up and fuel their activities. Rather than stocking the cupboards with pre-packaged processed snacks, create a snack shelf in the cupboard and the refrigerator filled with pre-portioned healthy snacks.
5. Have Dinner Together
If dinner doesn’t work, make it breakfast, but take time everyday to have a healthy meal together. This provides another opportunity to demonstrate healthy eating habits and provide your teens with examples of what makes up a healthy meal.
6. Practice Portion Control
The bottom-line is that you can eat all the right foods and still not be as healthy as you could be if you are eating too much. Most people underestimate how much they are eating everyday because they misjudge portion size. Providing your children with great examples of standard size portions sets them up to be more in control of how much they eat as they grow into adulthood.
Children learn what they live, make sure that the lesson they are learning about food is how to eat a healthy diet.