I have a question about how to introduce my daughter to a better way to eat. She is 17 but loves to eat junk food, no veggies. I think the way she eats is affecting her ability to concentrate and perform in school.
– María G.
I’m glad you said ‘introduce’ instead of lecture, tell, instruct, etc. Teenagers seem to hardly listen to their parents, let alone experts, regarding self-care choices. Communication experts suggest giving praise for good decisions. Another approach is to discuss how food industry marketing overtly influences their food choices. Perhaps start a conversation by asking her what factors she thinks are impacting her school performance – then listen and act on those first.
Although I’ve a handful of websites* to suggest she visit (assuming she bothers to read them), most teens are influenced by their peers and social media. Sigh. Role modeling a healthy lifestyle is one of the best things you can do as a parent, letting you “teach by example.” Behaviors and choices surrounding a nutritious diet, adequate sleep and routine exercise should be a family undertaking. That includes siblings and other adults in the home too!
- Involve her in planning the menu, choosing recipes and creating grocery shopping lists.
- Offer to shop for something she is willing to cook herself.
- Keep ready-to-eat versions of fruits and vegetables readily accessible in the kitchen.
- Limit the junk food purchased and brought into the home so it’s not available.
- Get her active in hands-on vegetable gardening.
- Eat together as a family.
- Limit exposure to commercial television and don’t eat in front of the TV.
– Debbie J., MS, RD
This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.
Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.