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Healthful Eating for Teens on the Run
- Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts)
- Non-fat dairy products (eg, fat-free, unflavored milk)
- Nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds)
- Whole grains, such as brown rice, whole-wheat breads, and oatmeal
- Healthy fats, such as the unsaturated fats in oils, fish, avocados, and nuts
- Lean sources of protein, such as lean meats, low-fat dairy products, soy products, and beans
Tips for Improving Teens' Eating Habits
Don't Skip Breakfast
- Offer granola bars, bananas, and other breakfast foods that can be eaten on the bus or in the car.
- Keep it simple. Include a protein, complex carbohydrate, and a fruit: cereal with milk and fruit or a bagel with peanut butter and an apple to eat on the way to school.
- Make your own "fast food." Bake fruit and oatmeal bars with your teen on the weekend so they'll be ready to grab during the week.
- Get creative. Pretty much any food can be a breakfast food: leftovers from last night's dinner, a sandwich, cottage cheese and fruit, or whatever your kid will eat.
Encourage Teens to Try New Foods
- Bring them grocery shopping and have them pick some new foods for your family to try.
- Encourage the whole family to try a new fruit or vegetable each week, such as papaya, mango, or spaghetti squash.
- Try ethnic cuisines—Thai, Mexican, Moroccan, Spanish, Japanese, etc.
Mix Favorite Foods With Not-So-Favorite Foods
- Stock your pantry with a variety of cereals—some high-fiber choices and some lower-fiber, high-sugar cereals that teens tend to favor. Suggest that your teen combine a high-fiber cereal with their usual cereal for their morning bowl. They'll still taste the sweetness and get some extra nutrients.
- Encourage kids to add sliced fresh fruit (blueberries, bananas, or strawberries) or dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried dates) to a bowl of cereal.
- Smoothies are popular among teens. Make these drinks with skim milk or 100% juice, frozen yogurt, and fruit.
- Stir-fry fresh or frozen vegetables in olive oil and toss them with pasta and tomato sauce.
- Add sesame seeds, fruit, raisins, scallions, or other nontraditional salad ingredients to liven up a green salad.
- Stuff sandwiches with cucumber and tomato slices, lettuce or spinach leaves, and sprouts, and use smaller amounts of meat and cheese.
Involve Teens in Planning and Preparing Meals
- Plan a few nights each week (as many as possible) that the whole family can have dinner together.
- Assign your teen one night of the week to plan dinner. Help him with the preparations as needed. Assign smaller tasks on the other nights.
- Provide refrigerated pizza dough, low-fat cheese, tomato sauce, and fresh or sauteed vegetables, and let your teen be the pizza chef.
- Bring them grocery shopping and have them select foods for lunches.
Tailor Meal Times to Energy Needs
- For kids with sports or jobs after school, provide them with a hearty snack, such as a peanut butter sandwich and an apple, to eat before heading off to practice or work.
- If extracurricular activities interfere with dinner time, have leftovers ready when your teen gets home.
- Make healthy entrées on the weekend and freeze them in individual containers that can be thawed and heated for quick dinners during the week.
- Keep the kitchen, school locker, and backpack well-stocked with healthy snacks.
American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org/
Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition http://www.ccfn.ca
Healthy Canadians http://www.healthycanadians.gc.ca
NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated February 28, 2012. Accessed July 12, 2012.
Smart snacking. Teens Health from Nemours website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/food%5Ffitness/nutrition/healthy%5Fsnacks.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Tips to help you eat fruits. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruits-tips.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Tips to help you eat vegetables. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-tips.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Tips to help you eat whole grains. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains-tips.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Tips to help you make wise choices from the protein foods group. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/protein-foods-tips.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Tips to help you make wise choices in the dairy group. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/dairy-tips.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
What are oils? ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/oils.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 07/2012
- Update Date: 07/13/2012