One thing I vividly remember as a teen was the bus dropping me off near my house, running to my front door, then busting through the door and immediately going to the pantry. I had a habit of being famished after school and wanted to eat any and everything. This of course, lead to me indulging in snacks like CheezIts, Funyuns, Doritos, Smart Food, and Fritos with Mountain Dew. Nothing wrong with eating those every once in a while, but I would eat half the bag. I didn’t know better because these were the types of foods that where always available in our house. It is part of parent’s responsibility to teach their children how to lead healthy lives.
I wish I knew better when I was younger so that I could have eaten healthier snack options and not be insecure about my weight. The best time to start teaching these lessons is when teens are young before they start having unhealthy habits. When you want to pass on healthy habits to your kids it is important to actively live a healthy lifestyle -- practice what you preach. Unfortunately just telling your kids what to do won’t work; they need to see you choosing healthy habits as well. Be that role model.
The following are ways to help your kids avoid unhealthy behaviors and habits:
1. Ditch the words "diet" and “bad foods”.
Labeling certain “bad” foods or restricting can really backfire. It creates pressure and can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors for kids. The last thing parents want to do is put that pressure on their kids so they feel they have to restrict or stay away from “bad foods.” Ditch the word diet or language like, “ I am so fat….I feel so gross eating this pizza.” Again, kids lead by example. They will learn to start thinking and saying the same thing about their bodies and being fat. Promote eating to be healthy not to lose weight or inches, but to be healthy inside and out.
2. Keep healthy snacks accessible.
Pay attention to the kinds of food you buy and limit the amount of “junk” food your kids eat. It is important to have fruits and vegetables available, which can be a quick and easy snack. A great example of this is hummus and carrots, homemade Kale chips with salt, or almond butter on apples. Be aware of “low fat” foods, as they sometimes contain unwanted ingredients and lots of unnecessary sugar. Just because it is “low fat” doesn’t mean it is a healthier option.
3. Portion control.
Limit portion sizes -- don’t force your teen to eat everything off their plate. Use the labels and portion sizes to help you determine what a portion is for a particular food.
4. Say bye-bye to soda.
Some experts call soda “liquid candy” because of the large amounts of sugar. I used to drink cans of Mountain Dew or Sprite and not think twice. Is soda really that bad for you? Yes, one can contain 10 teaspoons of sugar. Sugar changes your metabolism, causes cavities, weight gain, and can lead to heart attacks. Many teens consume nearly 34 teaspoons a day, mainly through soft drinks. Encourage your child to drink plenty of water instead of sports drink, fruit juices, and soda. That way, when your teen is with their friends or out and about, they will choose water over the sugar-filled drinks.
5. Limit TV time.
How many of us mindlessly eat while watching TV? The next thing you know, the whole bag of popcorn is gone...whoops! Teens do the same thing when they sit in front of the TV for hours, going through snack after snack. It is good to set a limit on TV and incorporate an activity -- play outside for a bit or go for a walk, then you can watch a TV show.
6. Have dinner together.
Knowing dinner will be served around the same time every night with the family enhances the appetite. Meal time with the family can be relaxing, not rushed, and a chance to enjoy each other’s company (not with the TV on). This is a great habit to get kids into -- sit down as a family and enjoy dinner. Not standing up and eating in the kitchen like my mom used to do. Also, this limits the amount of going out to dinner or ordering fast food.