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Healthy Teen Eating Habits

Getting teens to eat healthily isn’t always an easy job. Once kids reach their teenage years they begin to realise that they have more control over their bodies, and will want to make decisions for themselves. For this reason, criticising your teen’s eating habits will often do more harm than good. However, there are steps you can take to encourage your teen towards a healthier lifestyle, without causing war at the dinner table.

With approximately half the adult population overweight, and with many teens and adults suffering from eating disorders, instilling healthy eating habits in your teen is incredibly important to prevent any future problems from occurring. A poor diet can cause weight gain, high blood pressure, constipation, fatigue and problems concentrating.

Apart from keeping your kids in top shape physically, healthy eating habits stabilise energy, sharpen the mind and prevent mood swings. Some teens will realise the effect food has on their body and mood and will take steps to improve their eating habits themselves. However, others need a little help along the way. Here are some things you can do to help you along the way.

Stop putting soft drinks and juices into the shopping trolley

By cutting down on the amount of soft drinks and juices that you buy, your teen will no longer have these unhealthy drinks at an arms length. If they are going to consume them, they will have to buy them themselves. This way, you aren’t telling your teen what to do, and they may be less likely to rebel against you. Add slices of lemon, lime or orange to water to give it a burst of flavour, or pour them a glass of milk at meal time.

Fill their plate with colour

In order to get enough B vitamins into your teen, have them eat a variety of colours. Red, blue and purple berries, orange carrots and dark green broccoli are fantastic foods to pack in all those B vits!

Encourage your teen to eat breakfast

Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day yet many young girls are known to skip breakfast in order to cut calories and lose weight. However, this practice will simply cause them to over-eat at their next meal, or snack on sugary, fatty foods between meals. Eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved memory, increased concentration and higher performance at school. Have your teen drink a homemade smoothie, or even snack on some cereal with milk before they leave the house for the day ahead.

Make healthy snacks available

Kids are going to snack - and there is no real harm in it as long as what they eat is healthy. In fact, snacking can be a great way to prevent teens from eating too much at meal time. Keep lots of fruit and veg washed and ready to eat and cut down on the amount of processed foods in the house, including white bread and cakes. These store bought snacks will cause blood sugar to go up and down, resulting in your teen feeling tired and irritable. Instead, try to make some healthy homemade treats by adding fruit and vegetables to your baked goods.

Plan for regular meal times

Having regular family meals will help to create consistency in your teen’s eating habits. Teens often spend time out with friends, eating unhealthy foods instead of home cooked meals. If your teen knows that the family will be sitting down to a warm dinner at a certain time each day, they will be much more likely to come home to eat. Fast food is almost always higher in fat, salt and sugar, and lower in fibre and nutrients.

Your kids will feel all the better after opting for a home cooked dinner instead of a greasy chipper burger.

Encourage teens to eat plenty of grains

With whole grains, glucose is released slowly into the bloodstream, helping to keep blood sugar steady. Whole grain breads or cereals will help teens to feel fuller for longer than white bread, rice or wraps.

Watch their calcium and iron intake

We all know the teenage years are when those massive growth spurts occur, and because growth is so rapid during this period, the requirements for all nutrients increase. According to Irish Health, from the ages of 13-17, girls will gain 90% of bone density with boys of the same age gaining about 17 kg on average over this time period. Teens tend to lack calcium and iron in particular, and for this reason it is important to try and up their intake of both.

Milk, cheese and yoghurt are the best sources of calcium - encourage your teen to get at least five portions a day. Iron is best found in red meat, which should be eaten 2-3 times per week. Iron is particularly important for girls who have begun menstruation in order to prevent anemia.

Article sponsored by Glanmore Foods,
Award Winning Healthy Irish School Lunches