We need to get teens back to healthy foods.
So how do you start? It is daunting. And I don’t suggest coming in full swing with a super-sized bag of kale chips and quinoa burgers. That is an invitation for a full on revolt. Start slowly. It’s not EVER too late to start. Just two weeks to form a habit.
SIX TIPS FOR FEEDING HEALTHY TEENS
1. MAKE IT RELEVANT. This is my favorite, and the most impactful way to convince your child of anything. In order for healthy options to sink in, teens must believe the message has specific reference to them. Long term health challenges will NOT resonate with them. Let them know nutrition affects their growth, their emotions, their academic and sports performance, their appearance, or whatever seems to be the most important to the teen during that particular week.
Appeal to their vanity. Tell your daughter that eating lots more green leafy vegetables and less dairy/sugar will make her skin glow and eliminate breakouts, you have her ear. Talk to them about the correlation between nutritious food and acne. Want to grow? Talk about foods that promote growth and foods that don’t: promote calcium-rich foods and let them know soft drinks contain calcium depleting phosphoric acid, which can interfere with bone growth.
Appeal to their competitive nature. If you tell your son that he will play much better basketball if he doesn’t choose to drink the milkshake and chicken fingers before a game, he will listen.
Appeal to their academic drive: Tell your teen that eating grilled wild salmon and broccoli before exams and they will think more clearly. You at least have a chance!
BUT YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT RELEVANT.
2. Model good nutrition. You must model healthy eating habits. You cannot preach to them! We all know how well that usually ends. Show your teens how to make healthier choices so they learn the connection between good food and good health.
Want them to eat healthier? Buy and cook healthier!! Have easy to grab options ALWAYS available. This IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A PARENT. If you have good food in your fridge, you will eat good food. If you have a bowl of washed strawberries and grapes, they will eat them. Have a plate of veggies, hummus, and sliced apples out when they come home from school. Guacamole and fresh pico? They will eat it! Homemade organic popcorn is always a crowd pleaser.
- Let your teens help shop for healthy foods that they like and let them prepare their own meals/snacks.
- Keep junk food out of the house or to a minimum. AND find “cleaner” junk foods. Those made without harmful chemicals, sweeteners and dyes.
- Make extra when cooking dinner so they can use leftovers! (extra brown rice, chicken, pasta, brisket). I keep grass fed taco meat in the fridge to quickly make quesadillas after school.
- Sneak spinach into smoothies.
- The key is to be ready. Don’t wait for them to start rummaging through the kitchen. They will snack on what is in front of them. So have it out!
3. Eat more QUALITY protein at every meal. The growing teenage brain needs protein. Protein gives the body the building blocks it needs to repair and renew, and it also serves as a source of energy. But Quality Matters. Try wild fish, organic free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, pastured eggs. I keep a pot of beans ready at any given moment. Nut butters are also good sources of protein—just make sure they are all natural and not loaded with sugars.
4. Get more vitamins. Even if they were perfect eaters, they cannot get all of the nutrients they need from their food sources (soil depletion, environment, stress, etc.). Our teens need at least 20 to 30 percent more of their daily requirements of nearly all the vitamins. These three are imperative:
- Multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement is imperative. Cells are powered by nutrients. Vitamin D alone powers 200 reactions in the body and without it teens will be prone to depression/anxiety. Without enough B vitamins, and B12 (found in proteins) teens will feel lethargic, low in energy. Zinc has been nicknamed the “new anti-depressant”– it boosts mood and appetite and helps kids think. Look for organic, plant based vitamins from reputable companies like New Chapter and Nordic Naturals.
- Probiotics. Our immune system primarily resides in our digestive tract. The healthy bacteria that we need has been sabotaged with processed foods, antibiotics, and other chemical stresses we put on our bodies. Probiotics bring the good bacteria back so it can fight off illness, enhance digestion, remedies constipation and believe it or not, improves mood and thinking.
- Fish Oil. Good omega fats nourish the brains, the nervous system. Combats mood disorders, fights inflammation, great for their joints too. Quality matters!
CONSIDER SUPPLEMENTS FOR YOUR TEENAGERS.
5. Pantry clean out. Throw out foods with ARTIFICIAL FOOD COLORS and SWEETENERS. PERIOD. Artificial sweeteners are KNOWN to cause 93 unsavory side effects from brain tumors. Memory loss, to hair loss. Food colorings (banned in Europe) are known to cause tumors, ADHD, allergies among lots of other infuriating problems. These are definite NOs in our house.
READ THE LABELS. Take a look at the ingredient labels on your food package. Even the simplest of foods will have more chemicals in them than you can count, much less pronounce.
Fill your kitchen with real, fresh foods whenever possible. Even replacing super bad junk with organic, non-GMO junk is a non-toxic step in the right direction. Shop at Whole Foods, Central Market, even Tom Thumb offers cleaner options. Also, if you haven’t already, check out Thrive Market.
AND THE LAST THING …
6. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Without question this is true, especially for kids. For brain development, their daily energy levels, their ability to focus. Protein rich eggs, oatmeal, breakfast tacos, plant-based protein smoothies. These are great!! Fruit Loops ARE NOT AN OPTION. Sugary cereals and drinks have no place at breakfast—their brains have nothing to function with, and the sugar spike and drop makes them sluggish and cranky.
Getting your kids to eat a good breakfast is simple–if you just do a little planning.
Make it for them! It may be your only chance of the day to influence their choices. If you are not a morning person, prepare the night before–put out plates, glasses and put ingredients together ready to go from the fridge. Place their vitamins in ramekins at their place setting. Plan to get up 15 minutes early to scramble those eggs. It makes all the difference. Added bonus: Breakfast can be a great way to spend a moment with your kids—that you otherwise might not have!!
At the end of the day, it is about a lifestyle change, not a week or so of regimented consumption. A healthy routine paves the way to a vibrant future of health and happiness! If you’d like to dig deeper, we can help you get there!
So you and your teenager can experience daily GEM goodness after school, we’ve extended our hours to stay open until 6 p.m. Monday – Friday. YEP. WE ARE OPEN UNTIL 6.
Next up … What DO you feed those kids? Stay tuned for great snack ideas.