Hello friends! Welcome back. When my family made the switch to real food, I had two kids who were firmly planted in a fast and processed food world. My teenage son who is now 16 probably had to change the most. He is a rather picky eater and is a creature of habit. He likes things the way he likes things. He eats his breakfast in the same spot every morning and don’t you dare try to move him. I really moved him out of his comfort zone when I changed what we ate at each meal. There was nothing familiar about it and that made him very uncomfortable.
I had a very pleasant surprise this weekend and I want to share it with you (shout it out for the world to hear) as evidence that teenagers can change their eating habits. Our church always has a table full of bread and bakery treats from a local grocery store available to pick up and take with you. They are free from the store because they are “day-old” and no longer allowed to be sold. My teenager picked up some donuts in a package and was pretty thrilled to have a treat to eat. His plan was to eat the whole dozen himself this week while he is on spring break. My husband pointed out the garbage ingredients in them (they were really bad) and he actually put them back. I was stunned! That boy is stubborn and doesn’t like to be told what to do. Obviously, some of the lessons we are teaching him are actually being heard.
Along our real food journey I have picked up some tips on helping teens make healthy food choices. Here are some things that have helped in our family.
1. Let your teen have some control. We all should have control over what we are putting in our body. I sat down with my son and explained to him that I wasn’t trying to ruin his life. I shared with him some of the research I had been doing and provided him with logical reasons for making the change to real food. I actually gave him printouts of some of the articles and let him know some of my favorite websites so he could make an informed decision.
2. This one may be shocking to real food purists, but I let my teenage son buy school lunches. As you know, I pack real food lunches for my little ones, but I decided to let my teenage son continue to buy school lunch. I assumed I would have a complete rebellion if I made him start packing lunch and I really felt it was important to have him on board with our changes. I have the opportunity to feed him healthy real food for 2 meals and multiple snacks during the week and all weekend. This is a huge improvement for him and that is what matters most to me.
3. Make sure your teen is getting enough calcium. My boy is growing like crazy and plays sports. I want to make sure he has really strong bones. Teens like to swap out milk for sodas so it’s important to make sure they drink plenty of milk and eat cheese and yogurt. There are also lots of non-dairy foods like oranges, white beans, and kale that are a great source of calcium. At home, we only drink milk and water so I know my son is getting plenty of calcium.
4. Keep only healthy foods in the house. My teenager has plenty of opportunities to eat junk food, but when he comes home from school and is looking for something to eat, he only has healthy real food to choose from. You will be surprised that most kids will eat healthy foods if they convenient. My son’s favorites are DIY microwave popcorn, cheese, peanuts, and raisins. Yep, he loves to eat dried grapes by the handful. I was surprised to.
5. Plan simple balanced meals. My teen doesn’t like anything “fancy”. He likes plain meat and simple vegetables. Breakfast foods are one of his favorites so we often eat scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast or pancakes for dinner. Real food is all about keeping things simple, so that is what I did when I started to cook real food for the first time. There was no need for elaborate recipes or unusual ingredients.
6. Remake their favorite meals using real food. Just clean up the ingredients. I make my meatloaf with organic meat and put shredded onions and carrots in it for added nutrition. He gobbles it up. I also make homemade chicken nuggets. Chicken nuggets were always his choice when we were living at the drive -through windows. We now eat whole wheat pasta and make homemade sauce or an organic jar sauce without added sugar. It’s a simple switch that was easy for us.
7. Have a cheat meal once in a while. My family doesn’t eat out that much these days, but when we do I let my children choose whatever they want. I want them to understand how their bodies feel when they eat real food and when they eat processed food. I notice a difference and I want them to feel that too. I praise them when they order a side of vegetables or salad and try real hard not to roll my eyes when they make less healthy choices. I’m a firm believer that it is how we eat most of the time that will determine our overall health. A few cheats here and there won’t destroy the firm foundation of health that real food provides us.
I hope this helps. I know when I started my real food journey, I found very little information to help me with my teens. We all like to brag how well we feed our little ones, but it becomes so much harder when they get older. Teens are active with school, sports, work, and other activities. Much of what they eat is of their own choosing. I have found though that parents are still a huge influence on their teens. It is important to be a good example to them. They may just surprise you one day and put back the donuts.
Do you eat the same now as you did when you were a teen? Do you have trouble getting your teen to eat real food? What is the biggest obstacle for your family to make the change to real food? Have your kids ever surprised you with a healthy food choice? Leave me a comment below and let me know if this helps you in any way.
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