If your reading this than either your like me and have a tween or teen at home in need of food guidance OR, you have HAD IT with the junk food and are ready to clean house and get your kids on board with healthier choices. Either way I am here to help!
Somehow I have managed to come this far without ever stepping foot into a McDonalds and keeping Doritos and pop out of the house. With that said gettting the kids on their OWN to commit to HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES when away from home (or me) is a different story and my ultimate goal !
As we all know tweens and teens are entering a new realm of life and independence. Though we need to honor this I still believe in gentle guidance along the way and NOT throwing in the towel especially when it comes to health! Remember you are teaching them a wealth of knowledge that will prevent them down the line from suffering from diet related health issues such as diabetes, obesity, anxiety, or even cancer!
My daughter who is now 12 is at a point where she is out of the house a lot due to sports, school events, and spends a good amount of time with her friends! I have worked hard to empower her in the knowledge of REAL vs. FAKE foods and how to navigate food choices to help fuel her mind and body for the day ahead.
We have talks all the time on the way to school, parties, friends houses or even special events regarding how we are going to navigate a healthy way through the food and treats thats offered! We might talk about sticking to baked vs. fried foods, choosing just one treat off of the desert table, and sticking to water vs. juice or pop. We talk about why and I mostly try to listen and see where she is at and what she may struggle with. Sometimes I ask what she ate that day and how she felt. I try to make the connections where I can such as “those eggs you had for breakfast today are full of protein, great choice! ” or “have you had enough water today, maybe that will help your headache.” It helps her to make good balanced food decisions on her own, when she is away from home!
Here are My Top Tips to Gently Guide your Tween/Teen to Making REAL Food Choices on their Own!
#1 It All Starts At Home
If you have not been teaching your tweens/teens about the concept that “Food is Fuel” and you need to fuel up your body with healthy choices everyday than NOW is the time to start. At this age they are very well capable of understanding this. You can even use the red light (unhealthy) green light (healthy) concept. If its a new concept they may be stubborn but your the boss and you buy the food so make it fun! Have cut up fruits and veggies ready in the fridge right at eye level. Have easy grab stuff like organic cheese sticks or a bowl of sprouted mixed nuts ready for snacking. Make paleo cookies or energy balls like these (my kids love them).
After school my kids are always looking in the fridge so everyday I put out an appealing snack on the counter. I clearly let them know if they are hungry I put food out already so snack on that. For example, just yesterday I put out a bowl of organic pistachio nuts and cut up organic pears. They snacked on this while doing homework with no issues or complaints and it was all junk free!
Cooking most meals at home and eating at least 1 meal together a day has a HUGE impact on kids of all ages.
According to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University Children who eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week are;
- Less likely to abuse drugs/alcohol
- WILL EAT HEALTHIER OVERALL
- Show better academic performance
- Report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents LESS OFTEN.
Studies also showed that kids who are exposed to cooking or helping in the kitchen will themselves MAKE HEALTHIER FOOD CHOICES. You are literally shaping your kids taste buds everyday!! Shape them up to enjoy healthy food which is truly one of the best gifts you could give them!
#3 DON’T GIVE IN TO PEER PRESSURE (from your teen!)
Listen , I get it! When all the friends come over and you need to feed everybody and still be somewhat “cool” in your teens eyes serving chopped up veggies is not going to cut it. Be Cool by making popular foods and providing good swaps for the junk. For example: make mini pizzas with organic dough,organic cheese,and nitrate free pepperoni (these are always a big hit) as are these OAT ENERGY BITES.
Appetizers are apparently popular with 12 year olds (who knew!) so I try to accommodate what my daughter likes and put apps out in style! I Cut up a bunch of different cheeses and surround them with some gluten free crackers. Organic corn chips and salsa or homemade popcorn (with coconut oil) always go well over the crowd and (healthier) Potato chips (love THIS brand, and so do the kids!) .
I have a basket in my pantry full of “snacks” that are free reign for my kids and friends. I fill it with a bunch of different things that are fun for them but NOT JUNK! Some examples are beef jerky sticks, fruit strips, raisins, mini nut packs, and mini popcorn bags. Keeping it nutritious will be teaching not just yours but ALL the kids that healthy food can be yummy food!
#4 LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Children watch examples more than they listen to preaching especially tweens and teens! Your kids are watching YOU and the food choices YOU make. Make sure you are doing your best to eat healthy and make wise food choices yourself! If you need to work to clean up your diet make it a FUN family event and get the whole fam involved in healthier food choices! Kids do notice these things and it makes a difference!
Fill your home with lots of fresh fruits and vegetable, clean meat choices, and get rid of the processed foods. Cook as much as you can! If you are pressed for time, plan ahead and cook or prep what you can on Sundays for the week ahead.
All of this sends a positive message to kids that Health is Wealth and we need to take care of this temple which is our bodies to live a long fulfilling life!