Teaching healthy eating habits to teens

How to teach your teens the importance of proper nutrition before they develop poor eating habits for life.

Understanding teen nutrition

Daily nutritional requirements
The eating habits of teenagers are often rather strange, and teens take many nutritional risks. They may miss family meals and fill up on fast food; they may skip breakfast and experiment with meal supplements. Some girls cut calories to lose weight; some boys pack in calories to gain weight: In brief, they've turned a corner and realized that they can do whatever they want with their bodies.

But don't point out to your son that he's living on grease. A parent's direct criticism of what a teen eats is not usually effective. Your job is to provide a variety of nutritious foods and then back off. Teens should be allowed to decide what and how much to eat.

How to start
Lay out wholesome breakfast foods, provide nutritious snacks that they can tuck into a backpack, and set regular dinner times. Teens may act savvy, but they still rely on their parents for meeting their nutritional needs. They also look to parents for nutritional guidance.

Look for the "teachable moment." When you're both sitting at the breakfast table gazing at the cereal boxes, point out the nutrition information. Compare and see which cereal scores highest in iron, fibre, and the B vitamins. If, after a night of bingeing on snack foods, she feels nauseous, help her make the connection between the food she eats and her physical and mental well-being.

Teens need to aim for the maximum number of servings suggested in Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating to get the basic nutrients they need. However, the diets of many Canadian teens are low in both calcium and iron. Growing teenagers, male and female, need the maximum number of servings of milk products for calcium and the maximum of meat products for iron.

Page 1 of 4 - Learn why calcium is so important to a teens growing body on page 2

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