Healthy Eating Starts at Family Meals: A How-To

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All parents want their children to grow up to be fit, healthy, and strong.

One way to ensure their well-being is to encourage your teenager to make the right food choices now. If they learn to cook and eat healthy foods at home, they’re much more likely to continue eating in the same manner when they move away from home.

There are a number of ways to encourage your teen to make the right food choices. One of the most important is to have regular family meals. Many families have busy schedules. One parent has to work late, kids have after school jobs or sports or other activities planned. It’s no wonder families often eat at different times and become disconnected from one another.

The benefits of eating meals together as a family are varied:

Eating together gives your family the time it needs to reconnect.

You have more control over what foods your family eats.

Your teens have a platform – the dinner table – to talk about their day and know that you’re listening to them.

Another way to encourage your teen to eat the right foods is to be a role model for them. If they see you eating junk food on a regular basis but you’re telling them to eat foods which are good for them, they might view you as a hypocrite. If your teen sees you making good food choices, they’ll see how important you feel eating healthfully is and will be more likely to follow suit.

Most kids do what they see their parents doing, from healthy eating to being kind to people to work ethic.

To make family meals more appealing, have your teenager invite a few friends over for dinner once a week. If your teen likes to cook, it could be a great opportunity for them to show off their culinary skills.

Does having a family meal mean you have to cook something out of the ordinary? Absolutely not! In fact, as long as you’re together around a table sharing a meal you can be eating takeout and the benefits will be the same. If you choose to have pizza delivered, order something without all kinds of meat and go with veggies instead. (Or make your own healthy pizza at home!)

Keep in mind, your teen will probably require snacks in the afternoon. Rather than ban them altogether, stock up on healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Greek yogurt, popcorn, and wheat crackers with cheese are other snacks you can feel good about having in your home.

Give your teen some say about what you eat as a family. Of course you’ll want to quell their desire for nothing but junk food, but if they have more input into what you eat they may be less likely to fight you. Teach them how to make a meal plan and shop for groceries so they’ll be prepared when it’s time to leave home.

Finally, as a means to encourage your teen to make the right food choices, explain to them the benefits of choosing foods carefully. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and lean proteins will provide teens with the nutrients to be at their best. Fast and fried foods taste good but they lead to sluggishness and ill health.

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