Growing Teens into Healthy Adults

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD

Convincing teens to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep is not always easy, especially when parents are competing with junk food advertising and binge-worthy shows that keep kids on the sofa for hours. And there’s still peer pressure to deal with. 

Here are 5 tips to help you positively influence your teen’s lifestyle choices as they navigate puberty and growth spurts:

1. Trust them to know their appetite. They should eat when they are hungry and stop when full. Don’t berate them for wanting seconds, or for eating more 1 day than the next — that’s normal as they grow. 

2. Be a role model. Your teens learn by example. They will mirror your food choices and your commentary on your own body. Eat well and be positive about what you love about yourself. Don’t make negative comments about your shape — or theirs.

3. Teach moderation. Teens are independent and make many of their own food choices. That often means fast food, sugary beverages, salty snacks and candy. That’s okay sometimes. Explain it in terms they can understand, such as the 80/20 idea: Eat well 80% of the time, and enjoy treats 20% of the time.

4. Sleep matters. How tall your child will be is mostly determined by genetics, but factors such as eating well, getting enough sleep and being active also matter. Human growth hormone is mostly released while a child is asleep, so encourage a normal bedtime. 

5. Make healthy choices easy. Keep nutritious grab-and-go snacks on hand for busy teens. Include nuts, fruit, hummus, yogurt, whole-grain crackers, cheese and ready-to-eat vegetables. 

Remember: If teens learn healthy habits at home, they will know how to care for themselves as they blossom into young adults. 

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