Teenagers are notoriously bad eaters. Popular culture is awash with depictions of teens as bottomless pits or junk food monsters who subsist on a diet of french fries and soda pop. While these unhealthy diet habits may seem to be the norm, in truth, teens require a balanced diet and, eventually, this junk-food rich diet will have a physical impact. If your teen is about to attempt to modify her eating habits, or if you would like your teen to become a healthier eater, consider some ways in which you can help her reach her dietary goals.
Avoid Pushing Teen Dieters
While it may seem logical for you to actively push dieting on your food-pyramid-ignoring teen, doing so can actually have the opposite effect. If dieting is something that you want your teen to do and not something in which she is invested, she will likely not follow through with your dieting plans for her. You can’t watch your teen every second of the day, so if she isn’t interested in dieting, she will fill some of that time away from you with getting her daily fill of junk food. Instead of turning dieting into a conflict-filled activity, simply encourage dieting or challenge your teen to at least slightly modify her eating habits.
Encourage Food Diary Keeping
Many teens eat with abandon and, as a result, are not really aware of what they are putting into their mouths. To keep your teen conscious of his eating habits, encourage him to keep a food diary in which he jots down what he eats. By writing down each thing he puts in his mouth, your teen will get a better picture of his eating habits and be able to more effectively modify his eating patterns.
Create a Food Pyramid Checklist
Give your teen a better picture of what his daily diet should include by creating a food pyramid checklist for her to follow. Type or write out a list of the items on the food pyramid and ask your dieting teen to check off each food serving as she eats it. For example, if she munches on an apple after school, she can check off one serving of fruits from her checklist.
Replace Favorites with Healthy Alternatives
Instead of asking your teen to give up her favorite treats, come up with healthy alternatives to these fall-backs. For example, if your teen is a lover of potato chips, consider replacing the calorie- and fat-filled fried version of these treats with a better baked chip option. Or if your teen is a lover of all things chocolate, encourage her to grab a chocolate graham cracker instead of an Oreo at day’s end.
Select Pre-Portioned Snacks
Many teens fail in their diet efforts because of a lack of portion control. To ensure that your teen’s after-school snack doesn’t consist of five servings of food, buy foods that are pre-portioned, or create your own pre-portioned snack packs using resealable bags. Place all of these snack-time options in a basket or bowl on your counter so that your teen can grab a snack without undoing her diet efforts.