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Monday, January 7, 2013

Teen Health: It’s What They’re Eating

This is the beginning of a month-long series on teen health from Kim Seidel, writer-editor for Seidel Ink, LLC, and mother of a teen and a tween.

Parents striving to improve their eating and exercising habits may achieve extra benefits beyond weight loss and increased energy: Their teenagers may start to improve their own lifestyles.

“Without question, children watch what their parents do and are very responsive in their own actions,” says Ann Kulze, a nationally recognized expert in nutrition and author of Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet.

Parents must be the primary role model for their children...
...she says, in all aspects of a healthy lifestyle, including eating the right foods and exercising.

“Parents, peers, and the media have the greatest influence on teens,” Kulze says. “And by far, parents have the most influence if they take advantage of it. Make healthy changes. You are missing out on an incredible opportunity if you do not.”

Here are some ways how:
1. Share family meals
Sharing family meals is a powerful way for parents to role model healthy choices.

“Studies show that families who regularly eat together at home consume more fruits and veggies and less calories and junk food than those who don’t dine together or often eat at restaurants,” Kulze says.

Studies also have shown that teens who sit down and eat with their parents engage in less risky behavior, such as substance abuse and sexual promiscuity, than their peers who don’t consistently share meals at home with mom and dad.

“Aim to have family meals at least four to five days a week, but there’s a value in two to three times a week too,” says Kulze, mother of four children.

2. Offer healthy choices
It’s such a simple concept that most parents don’t think about it: Don’t bring junk food into the home.

“Parents essentially control the food environment in the household,” Kulze says. Make sure the cupboard and the refrigerator are filled with healthy fare. If unwholesome choices aren’t there, it’s not an option.

“Involving teens in healthy food preparation has been shown to increase healthy eating,” Kulze says. “Have them experience healthy food with all of their senses – seeing, tasting, touching, eating, and smelling. I always involve my children in food preparation.”

It can be a big challenge, but aim for five fruits and vegetables each day for children and seven to nine servings each day for adults.

In addition to the two servings of fruit at breakfast, make sure you and your teens eat a fruit and/or a vegetable with lunch. At the family meal in the evening, two servings of vegetables can be served as a salad, as well as side dishes.

Photo Source: Earth Fare


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