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Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

The Care and Feeding of Adolescents

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Given that food is a basic need and we all know that the obesity rate among children has tripled in the last 40 years, and that more and more people are living with Type 2 Diabetes, you would think that there would be lots of support for eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercising daily. Riiiight!

That would be in the perfect world, where preteens and teens did not care what their peers think, manufacturers did not advertise food that will make us fat and sick with skinny, beautiful people, school lunch programs did not (usually) suck, and where our children did not spend more time in front of "screens," being bombarded with advertising each year, than they spend in school!

Sadly enough, the best time to instill healthy eating habits is with their first solid food, but if you have gotten past 13 years old and have a teen you are encouraging to eat better, here are some tips:
  • Be a role model - exercise daily and eat well;
  • Set screen time limits;
  • Do outside activities together;
  • Cut the portions you usually serve down;
  • Do not keep the unhealthy, sugary, easy foods in the house;
  • Make the healthy foods easy - keep fruit cut up in the fridge with a tasty yogurt, and granola on the counter;
  • Pack snacks they can take to school, practice, work, and other outside the home activities;
  • Try new recipes until you find the ones they like;
  • Go to local farmer's markets and cook meals together using the ingredients; and
  • Make food something that the family enjoys preparing and sharing.
One great resource for helping preteens eat right and understanding the marketing that goes into what we eat is Shaping Youth. I heard the Founder, Amy Jussel, speak last week and couldn't wait to send parents, teachers, and teens to her Blog. This is a new organization so I think the web site will continue to grow.

Good luck and keep up the fight!

Photo credit: mOOrango
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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