Helping Your Teen Develop the Right Diet

Helping Your Teen Develop the Right Diet

A parents and their children are eating healthy breakfast

At some point, French fries and cheeseburgers don’t cut it anymore. Steering your teen towards healthier eating habits might seem like a difficult challenge, but it’s a necessary step to take to avoid serious health issues down the line. If your teen begins to develop the wrong eating habits, it could lead to things like obesity or, on the opposite spectrum, eating disorders. True, it’s easier to catch these habits earlier on in childhood, but it’s never too late to change the eating habits of even the most defiant teenager. Here, we provide some helpful tips to turn your teen on to healthy food without the risk of shutting down.

It’s Worth the Money

Different sorts of healthy food are always worth the money

One way to convince your teen to try different food is to convince them it’s a treat. To do this, find a nice restaurant you’d both be interested in trying. Taking your teenager to a formal, “adult” restaurant will make them feel important, and there are no “kid” options when it comes to the menu. It’s a chance for your teen to eat something different than the usual fried fare and expand their palette.

In this situation, your teen is more likely to comply to the surrounding atmosphere and order something that an adult would get. It’s just the right amount of social pressure to convince your teen to step out of their comfort zone and try new foods. They won’t want to look childish, and so they won’t order something like chicken tenders at a nice steakhouse. Doing this enough will even introduce them to “fancy” dishes they develop a taste for, and then you can try your own (cheaper) recipes at home.

Don’t Overlook Daily Nutrition

A different kinds of healthy food in refrigerator

There is a wealth of resources when it comes to eating healthy, and, as a parent, part of your job is to utilize this information. An easy trick is to go online, find the daily nutritional needs for your teen (search age, height, and weight), print it out, and stick it on the front of the fridge. This will be a daily reminder to you and your teen of what it takes to be a healthy eater. It can even help set new dietary goals. And, since it has to do with your teen’s own wellbeing, they’ll probably be more responsive to a nutrition chart than a chore chart.

Another good strategy is to not only address the teen’s nutrition, but yours and your family’s as well. This way your teen won’t feel singled out, and more people get healthy in the process—it’s a win-win! You can even make it a game by keeping track of your diet and seeing who can meet the most nutritional goals each week. As your teen picks up on the importance of dietary requirements, they may even begin finding they like trying new and healthy foods.

Self-Motivation: The Most Powerful Tool

A girl is choosing vegetables instead meat and cake

Intrinsic motivation is perhaps the most effective way for people to accomplish their goals. Inspiring your teen to motivate their own dietary needs will make your job easier, while also making sure they get the right amounts of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. To do this, illustrate how proper health and nutrition will help your teen accomplish goals they are already working towards. For example, if your teen plays sports, it’s a cinch to show them how increased nutrition leads to increased performance. If they’re having issues sleeping well, help them find the foods that will help them feel more rested before bed. Knowing that eating right can help them accomplish their personal goals will spark the intrinsic motivation within your teen. It will also reduce any feelings your teen may be having of eating healthy just because they “have to.”

Nutritionists Can Help, Too

Your teen might avoid certain foods due to anxieties they have about eating. Teens can be put off by certain textures, colors, or concerns about how it will effect their body. However, if the same foods take on different forms or are prepared differently, they may think again about trying them. Speaking with a nutritionist or dietician may assist you in uncovering the reasons behind your teen’s unhealthy habits. These professionals will also be able to provide you with further resources to give your teen on eating right. There’s also a chance that your teen will heed advice more readily when it comes from a professional instead of a parent.


Healthy food in heart shape

Publications like Sunset Magazine and Bon Appetit are great resources for finding nutritious recipes that your teen may enjoy. Think about going through one with them and finding dishes you’d like to prepare together. This will allow the two of you to compromise on a dish that is both healthy and tasty.

If your teen helps prepare the meal, there’s also a chance they’ll internalize all the skill it takes to prepare good food. This new appreciation could help them enjoy new dishes more readily and lead to a healthier diet. Picking out one new recipe a week for them to help prepare is a good way to grow this appreciation while also providing healthy meals. Not to mention, cooking with your teen is a great way to incorporate quality time into the week.

Bon Appetit!

Dietary health is an uphill battle for many adults, but introducing your teen to healthy eating habits early on can prevent them from facing a variety of dietary issues later in their life. We think these tips are relatively stress-free ways of confronting any developing or established bad eating habits with your teen. Who knows, they may even enjoy going to new restaurants, tracking their calories, and learning to cook!


A girl has a healthy lunch

Author Bio:

Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.