Healthy eating is an important issue at any age in your child’s life starting with their first meals when you try your best to introduce them to healthy foods to help ensure that they develop a balanced taste palate. It doesn’t take long however before your child starts to express their own independence with their eating and refuse foods that they previously couldn’t get enough of. As parents, we roll up our sleeves, put on our creative hats and find ways to make sure they get all of their nutrients even if that means cleverly hiding them.
This issue becomes even harder though when our kids reach the teenage years and get even more independence. For the first time now, they’re likely to be making eating decisions outside of the home on a regular basis. When this starts to happen, the ability to be creative isn’t as impactful and the biggest tool that parents have is to properly educate their children about making good choices when it comes to eating.
Like anything with teenagers though, the topic of healthy eating must be approached tactfully and carefully so that the lessons are well received and don’t create complexes. This list is not exhaustive but can be a great start to jump start the healthy eating conversation with your teen.
Be a good role model
Our kids learn more from what we do than from what we say. If your child has unhealthy eating habits, the first place that you should look at is your own eating habits. If you do indeed have unhealthy eating habits, changing them may be the motivation that your child needs. At a minimum, if you change your eating habits, you’ll have healthier food at home for them to choose from which may lead to them making healthier choices. Healthy choices shouldn’t stop at home either.
As tempting as it may be to splurge on food choices when you’re having a night out if you’re looking to set a good example, you may want to rethink your choices unless the example that you’re looking to set is that it’s okay to splurge in moderation.
If your child has a weight issue or is struggling with healthy eating, being positive will go a long way. If your child picks up vibes that you’re ashamed of them or that you don’t believe in them, your conversation may do more harm than good.
Learn what’s important to them
You can’t assume that what matters most to your teen is what matters most to you. While you may care about a number that you see on the scale, your teen may not. Making the assumption that your priorities are one and the same may mean that your message doesn’t quite reach them the way that you hope it will.
Make a plan together
Making a commitment to be healthier together may help your child to eat healthier. Making a plan together can include things like shopping for food together, planning menus together, preparing meals together and eating together!
Distinguish between dieting and healthy eating
Dieting and healthy eating should not be confused. Teaching your child about healthy eating is teaching them about a lifestyle choice that if done properly will stay with them for their entire lives. Dieting, on the other hand, is typically temporary, not always healthy and may lead to frequent fluctuations in weight.
One of the reasons that so many people trend towards diets over healthy eating is because diets promise quick results whereas healthy eating has more long term results. Unlike diets though, these long term healthy eating decisions have staying power. Changing habits or forming good habits is not easy though and if you want your child to really latch onto your lessons, patience is important on your part.
What better way to help your child eat healthily and as a bonus, get some much needed and valued family time than to have meals together. As your teen gets a more active social life, you may notice that they’re AWOL more at the dinner table. Try to set aside some days during the week that are dedicated to family dinners where everyone gets to put their healthy eating lessons to use!
Watch what you say
The last thing that you want to do is give your kid an image complex or worse, be the catalyst for an eating disorder. That’s why when it comes to talking to your kid about healthy eating, try to be as PC and positive as possible.