As your child begins to assert his or her independence, food may well be one of the battles you face. Although most children have already formed their eating habits by their teens, it's never too late to encourage your child to eat better and begin developing healthy tendencies.
When it comes to steering your teen towards healthier choices, a delicate approach is necessary. Teens are more susceptible to low self-esteem and potentially harmful accompanying behavior, such as anorexia or bulimia, so it's important to emphasize a balanced and nutritious diet combined with healthy physical activity. Fad diets or extreme exercise regimens aren't appropriate, and they are probably not sustainable in the long term.
The Nutrients Your Teen Needs
Due to the rapid growth that occurs between ages 12 and 18, teens have unique nutritional needs.
- Boys require about 2,500 to 2,800 daily calories. Girls need about 2,200 calories each day.
- Fast growers need iron-12 milligrams of iron per day for boys and 15 milligrams per day for girls.
- For strong bones and teeth, teenagers need about 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day.
- To ensure healthy muscle development, teens need at least 45 to 60 grams of protein per day.
To meet these requirements, teens should eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. Trans fats and hydrogenated oils should be avoided, and snacks should be limited.
Modeling Good Choices
Getting your teen to eat healthy can be challenging, but you may be surprised at the influence you have over your child-although his or her eye rolling may have convinced you otherwise. By modeling healthy behaviors, you can have a positive effect on your child's behavior, even if he or she won't admit it.
- Avoid eating meals in front of the television.
- Choose appropriate serving sizes of healthy foods.
- Eat regularly and avoid skipping meals.
- Stock your pantry with healthy snacks instead of junk food.
- Try to have at least one or two meals as a family each week.
If your child isn't used to these things, don't expect him or her to alter her habits overnight. Make these changes gradually and encourage the entire family to get involved.
|Dealing With a Choosy Eater
Although not yet officially recognized as a mental disorder, Selective Eating Disorder (SED) has recently garnered quite a bit of attention in the news and popular media. There's no doubt living with a teenage picky eater can be difficult, but the right parenting approach can help your child branch out and try new foods. Try the following tips to turn a picky eater into a culinary adventurer:
- Arm yourself with nutritional facts about your child's favorite foods.
- Explain the short-term benefits of a good diet, such as improved athletic performance or more energy.
- Gradually introduce variety over time, combining new foods with familiar favorites.
- It may take up to 10 attempts to get your child to accept an unfamiliar food. If you're teen doesn't like a particular food, keep trying.
Sources: kidshealth.org, psychcentral.com, cdc.gov and nutrition.com