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How to turn around a fussy eater: Teens

Reviewed by our expert panel
How to turn around a fussy eater: Teens

Fed up with being a short-order cook creating different meals for each member of the family?

Encouraging teenagers to eat healthily can be difficult. Parental control is diminishing and peers increasingly set the scene. As many teens get part-time jobs, their purchasing power and ability to buy junk food increases. Pursuit of a 'body beautiful' can lead to dieting and other irrational methods for achieving a desirable body shape. A common ploy, particularly by girls, is to cut out a complete food group – most likely meat and dairy. Eliminating meat or dairy foods means eliminating essential nutrients these foods provide.

Prepare them a healthy packed lunch

While they should be old enough to perform this task themselves, the reality is most teenagers don't. By preparing lunch for them, you hopefully create a healthy lunch habit which will stay with them for life.

Help them get organised in the morning

… so they have time to sit down for a healthy breakfast.

Demonstrate good habits

If you enjoy and actively choose healthy food, the chances are your teenagers will weather the nutritionally rocky road of adolescence and become a healthy eating adult themselves. Likewise, if they see you dieting or obsessing over weight, they're more likely to develop unhealthy attitudes themselves.

Set some reasonable rules together

For example, ice cream is allowed if it is eaten with fruit. That and other such rules are likely to become habits that stick.

Encourage them to carry a water bottle

They won't be so tempted to purchase sugary drinks if they have a portable water bottle at hand. Help them keep it washed and full.

Fill your pantry and fridge with healthy food

Exploit your teens' natural laziness by making the most easily accessible foods healthy foods.

Encourage them to carry a healthy snack

They don't have to rely on the tuck shop or corner store when a snack attack hits if they have a healthy snack at hand. Fresh fruit, bags of nuts and dried fruit, low- fat muesli bars and unflavoured popcorn are good choices.

Keep a fruit basket on the bench

Fill it with fresh, attractive fruit which is quick and easy to eat.

Don't get too emotionally involved

Like young children, teenagers use food to assert their independence. Worry is a wasted emotion and it has the potential to make things worse.

Buy a punnet of strawberries or other in-season fruit treats

Swap the bag of crisps or can of soft drink as an after school treat for some naturally sweet fruit. It's a similar cost, has far better nutrition, and reinforces the idea that fruit can be a treat.

Discuss food and nutrition frequently

Link healthy eating to looks and sporting/intellectual performance rather than longevity and health. They will roll their eyes, but some of your advice will stick.

First published: May 2009


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