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They go out for burgers and fries or make pizzas from scratch with friends. They surf the food court - and discover sushi along the way. Teens want to share meals with their friends and eat whenever and whatever they want. You want them to eat well and to learn to cook. Find out how to nurture their love of food - and encourage them to discover the joys of cooking.
By the time your child turns 13, you might expect that she would occasionally have dinner prepared for you when you arrive home late from work.
Teens love to be fed. They may reject your advice, they definitely don't want you to fix their hair, but they do want you to feed them. If you're the one who does all the cooking, how will your child ever learn to plan and prepare meals? He'll be on his own before you know it, but you're still making the sandwiches he takes to school for lunch.
When children hit adolescence, their focus shifts away from the home and onto the larger community. Your daughter may no longer want to spend an afternoon baking cookies with you, however, she may still want to learn about cooking - just not from her parents. If she wants to take a cooking course with her friends, tell her it's a great idea. Give her a cookbook for Christmas.
If your son mentions that he would like to bake a birthday cake for his girlfriend, hand over the recipe but don't go far away. He may need to ask you what vanilla is or how to crack an egg. Think twice about what you say and don't let a quick quip from you end his culinary education. Take a deep breath and say something encouraging such as, "Yeah, breaking an egg can be tricky. Let's practise with a couple of eggs. We can use them up in an omelette tomorrow."
Send them to the store
When your teens complain that there's no food in the house, open your wallet and send them to the grocery store. If your son last entered a supermarket when he sat in the little seat in the shopping cart, it's time he ventured back in. Make the most of his interest in food by having him do the family grocery shopping or make a meal. Even with your list, the groceries he buys may be unusual, and even with your advice, the meal he makes could be less than spectacular. But be encouraging. Help isn't really what you're after. Primarily, you want your child to develop some idea of grocery costs and to be able to put a meal on the table. If he has that knowledge tucked under his belt, you'll feel a lot more comfortable sending him out into the world.
On page 2 - 10 teen nutrition facts
10 Facts about Nutrition for Teens
1. Eating is one of life's joys. Food is a pleasure that everyone can share.
2. What you eat today affects your health not only now, but in years to come. If you consume a sufficient amount of calcium now, for example, you can reduce your chances of osteoporosis later in life. Milk is not just for children.
3. If you focus on lower-fat foods, you can reduce your risks of obesity and of many illnesses, from heart disease to cancer.
4. You need to eat a variety of foods for peak nutrition. No one food is perfect.
5. Business people, not nutritionists, plan fast-food meals. If you heavily entrust your nutritional needs to fast-food chains, your diet will have too much meat, fat and salt. You'll still need to add dairy products, whole grains, fruits and vegetables to your diet.
6. When you're hot and sweaty, there's nothing quite like water. Drinking adequate amounts of water throughout the day is essential to good health.
7. Food in its original form beats processed food. A handful of ripe cherries is more nutritious than cherry chews. A bowl of oatmeal is nutritionally superior to processed oatmeal cookies.
8. Go with whole wheat and other whole grain breads, which offer a multitude of nutrients that white bread doesn't.
9. Make a habit of choosing the lower-fat alternative.
10. Cooking is a grand adventure when you're ready to embark.
Excerpted from Understanding Your Teen, A Canadian Living Family Book (Ballantine, 1998), edited by Family editor Christine Langlois.