Teens are commonly known for making poor eating decisions. While some junk food snacking or over-indulgence is to be expected, excessive consumption of unhealthy foods can lead to problems. As the Palo Alto Medical Foundation reports, 15 percent of children between the ages of six and 19 are considered overweight. If your teen is a member of this 15 percent, or if you are eager to ensure that he doesn’t join these ranks, consider what you can do as a parent to promote a healthy diet.
Importance of Healthy Choices
Unhealthy eating habits as a teen can lead to later in life difficulties, reports the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Teens who do not eat a healthy diet are prone to developing weight problems, which can put the teen at risk for the development of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even stroke. Those who are overweight or physically unfit as teens are significantly more likely to remain overweight into adulthood.
Balancing it Out
The key to a healthy teen diet is eating a balanced one. All diets should contain a mixture of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, grains and dairy. Eating an excessive amount of any of these things can lead to weight gain or vitamin deficiency. The Department of Agriculture offers a food pyramid for health-conscious eaters. This dietary standard can help teens and their parents determine how much of each food they should be eating to maintain the desirable balance of food in their diets.
Junking the Junk Foods
Many teens delight in snacking on junk foods. While a healthy diet does not necessarily mean giving up these tasty yet nutritionally lacking foods altogether, healthy diets should be light on these foods. As Children, Youth and Women’s Health Services reports, these foods commonly contain high levels of fat, salt and sugar, the consumption of all of which should be kept to a minimum level for optimum health. To encourage your teen to stop turning to these easy snack options, stock your cupboard with tasty yet healthy alternatives such as dried fruits, nuts and low-fat snack crackers.
Caffeine Intake Moderation
Some teens turn to caffeine as their energy wains at the end of a long day. This practice, while seemingly safe, could result in dependency, reports TeenHealth. Individuals who consume as little as 100 mg of caffeine in a day run the risk of become dependent upon the substance. To ensure that your teen doesn’t become a caffeine junkie, select decaffeinated beverage options whenever possible.
Gradual Diet Modification
If you have identified your teen as a chronically unhealthy eater, don’t attempt to turn her eating around in an instant. Instead, encourage her to make gradual modifications to her diet. As Children, Youth and Women’s Health Services reports, you will likely find yourself more successful in your attempts if you ask her to start small, replacing one unhealthy snack a day with a fruit before moving on to tackling the healthiness of the other snacks and the meals that fill the day. By doing this, you allow your child to get use to the idea of dietary change and avoid making her feel bombarded with these new healthy foods.