Teenage Nutrition

Posted by Gill O'Shea30th June 2021

It is important to support your teenagers health by developing a good relationship with food. Avoid judgement around food, and here is my advice and tips for concerned parents:

Don’t talk about food as Healthy, junk, treat, good, bad etc. Chocolate is chocolate and a treat is going to the cinema with a friend.

When there is judgement around food there is judgement for eating. 

Negative emotions from eating is not health promotion behaviour

Provide a variety of all food at home. Including vegetables, fruit, bread, pasta, eggs, beans, cake, meat, chocolate etc.

If you don’t serve it, then your kids can’t eat it. 80% of our food is eaten at home if we include packed lunches.

Its about nutritional intake as well as having a good relationship with all food.

Perfection isn’t the goal when feeding and raising teenagers. There is nothing wrong with store bought or take-out food if they allow for enjoyable family meals that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

All day grazing does not make teenagers comfortable around food, but scheduled meals will help them avoid developing habits such as sneaking food, snacking all day, eating until they are overfull.

Instead of having an all-night grazing policy, maybe a scheduled evening snack 1 to 2 hours before bed every evening will help with meeting your teenager’s nutritional requirements 

Teenage growth is totally personal and looks different for everyone including siblings.

Be careful of your language about food around teenagers. For example many believe that lower calories means “healthier” which is definitely not the case, and may affect the way we eat and overall nutrition

Nutrition messages are everywhere and they are not always positive. Our teenagers often believe that salad is good, bread is bad, sugar is addictive, fat can be bad and good at the same time…..and these messages are everywhere on social media, TV, even food packaging.

Some examples of the messages we should actually be giving our teenagers:

  1. Calories give our body energy and this number of calories tells us how much fuel is there. 
  2. Some people think eating tasty food is a bad thing, it’s really not something to feel bad about, because food should taste good and it’s supposed to give us energy.  When the teenagers run out to school without eating breakfast, discuss this and explain that food is important for energy and concentration at school.
  3. Point out that food doesn’t have to be earned or justified to eat and enjoy. Keep judgement away from food and eating
  4. Keep negative nutrition messages out of the house as much as possible. Try to avoid buying foods that have diet messages on them.
  5. Let everyone serve themselves from family-style meals. This gives everyone the control and opportunity to take their chosen food in amounts they need.
  6. Allow for seconds without comment. This shows you trust your teenager to eat in response to their body’s signals and needs.
  7. Talk about food neutrally. Don’t label them good/bad, healthy/junk, etc. This allows your teenager to eat all food free of guilt or shame.