When I was a teenager, I know I did not have the best diet. I drank tons of Mt. Dew, ate fast food, and was a bit of a junk food vegetarian. These are habits that make me cringe as a registered dietitian and as a mom of future teenagers. But now I have the knowledge and experience to help my kids from making some of the same mistakes I made when it comes to food choices and eating habits.
Since older kids have more control of when, what, and how they eat, they are more likely to make some nutritional faux pas. In the hustle and bustle of the real world, it is easy to overlook these mistakes, but continuing to ignore them will harm your children in the long run. Teaching your adolescents healthy habits now will help them as adults.
Nutrition No No # 1: Skipping Breakfast
Teenagers love to sleep in. Most would rather catch a few more zzz’s than take the time to make a healthy breakfast. But, this will lead to overeating at lunch and after school and will deprive their brains of the much needed nutrients to optimize learning. Here are a few tips to make sure your kids eat breakfast:
- Make breakfast the night before
- Eat leftovers
- Make a smoothie
- Pack a breakfast for the ride to school
Nutrition No No # 2: Grazing All Day
Kids love to snack. Teens are at the age where they are generally in charge of making their own snacks, buying snacks when they are out, or using the vending machines at school. These calories add up quickly and are often junk foods. Put a stop to junk food snacking and keep healthy snacks on hand instead. Stock up on yogurt, dried fruits and nuts, low-fat cheese and salt-free crackers, hummus and veggies, sugar-free cereals and plain popcorn.
Nutrition No No # 3: Eating on the Run
Teenagers are busy. School, sports, homework, social lives, and family commitments keep older kids on the run. It is easy to grab convenience foods and fast foods on the go. But, these foods are very high in calories, fat, and sodium. If fast food is the only choice, then teach your kids to choose healthier options. Never super-size, drink water instead of soda, hold the condiments like ketchup, choose leaner meats like chicken or turkey, and ask for salad dressings on the side.
Nutrition No No # 4: Too Many Calories
Teenagers tend to eat too many calories. Many of these come from sugar sweetened beverages like juice, soda, and sports drinks. Fast foods and many teen preferred snacks are also high in fat and calories. Teenagers need calories to grow, but just make sure they are from nutritious foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and low fat dairy.
Nutrition No No #5: Not Enough Calcium
Research shows that adolescents get half of the daily calcium they need. Teenagers need 1300mg of calcium per day to help build bone mass. During the peak bone growing ages of 9-18, kids (especially girls) need to pay close attention to the amount of calcium they consume. Kids who consume less than the daily intake are at risk for osteoporosis later in life. So make sure your kids are drinking milk and eating dairy foods, leafy green veggies, broccoli, or calcium fortified foods like orange juice.