Teenagers often have the worst eating habits. With busy school schedules, after-school activities, and social lives, they tend to opt for convenient, processed foods over nutritious home-cooked meals. However, the teen years are a critical time for physical and mental development that require proper nutrition. Forming healthy eating habits now will benefit them well into adulthood. As a parent or foster carer, you play an important role in guiding your teens towards making good food choices. Here are some tips.
Lead by Example
Actions speak louder than words. If your teen sees you choosing healthy snacks and enjoying vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains, they are more likely to eat better too. Discuss the nutritional benefits of certain foods and how it makes you feel good. Your habits have more influence than you realise.
If your foster teen has unhealthy eating habits, ask your agency for advice. An agency like fosterplus.co.uk will have resources and can put you in touch with other foster carers who are going through similar issues right now.
Make Nutritious Foods Available
When teens come home hungry after school, they will grab whatever convenient snacks they can find. Make it easy for them to make nutritious choices by keeping fresh fruits, veggies, yogurt, nuts, and other healthy foods stocked up and within reach. Avoid buying fizzy drinks, crisps, biscuits and other junk foods. Out of sight, out of mind!
Encourage Involvement in Menu Planning and Cooking
Teens who help plan, grocery shop and prepare meals are more invested in making healthy choices. Take your teen grocery shopping and discuss how to identify nutritious ingredients. Look up recipes together and write a weekly meal plan focused on healthier foods. Cooking together can be a fun family activity too. Praise your teen when they choose or make nutritious foods.
Focus on Positive Reinforcement
Nagging or criticising your teen for unhealthy eating often backfires. Be a supportive guide, not a drill sergeant. Praise every healthy choice your teen makes, and don’t criticise them if they indulge in sweets occasionally. Promote balance rather than restriction. With patience and compassion, you can instil good habits over time.
Consider Their Preferences
While nutrition is important, teens have their own tastes and cravings. Banning their favourite junk foods completely may cause them to overindulge when you’re not looking. Strive for moderation and variety by incorporating their preferred foods into healthy meals. For example, top a salad with a little cheese and crunchy tortilla strips, make pizza on a whole wheat crust with veggies on top, or bake cinnamon apple chips for a sweet treat.
Set a Good Example When Eating Out
Fast food is a huge temptation for teens. Yet you can still make healthier choices when dining out. Look up nutritional info online and steer them towards healthier menu items. Suggest they skip cola and have water instead. Split an order of fries. Little changes add up! Praise healthy selections.
Lastly, don’t nag, criticise or force your teen to eat healthily. With your guidance and positive reinforcement over time, they will learn to make nutritious food choices on their own.