Nutrition is a hot button topic when it comes to raising a child because no one really seems to understand how we can give them the proper tools to develop a healthy relationship with food. Many of us have trouble feeding ourselves a healthy diet after all. But on the surface nutrition seems to be such a simple set of rules and guidelines.
The number of calories you eat, for instance, corresponds directly to the number of calories you burn and if the first is in excess of the second, you gain weight. Except that there are good foods and bad foods and all of your food behaviors interact with each other. These things, along with our societal attitudes about food make the issue complicated at best. It is no surprise that things grow even more complicated when the child in question is a teenager.
On some level, when you are concerned about your teen's eating habits and their relationship to food, you are looking for signs that your child has learned to feed themselves without any complications. During the teen years food can become closely connected with a child's emotional development as well as their physical development. You want to make sure that your teen eats right without learning to lean on food emotionally or to the detriment of their health and self-esteem. The basics remain the same as their always have though.
As with younger children, the concern is that teens eat too much sugar, too much junk food and not enough of the fruits and vegetables that they should have in abundance. When dealing with teens however, you need to relinquish the control that you may previously have had over your child's food choices. You now have to step back and guide primarily by example.
A normal and healthy diet should include:
* Two to three servings of protein rich foods every day
* Two to three calcium rich foods every day
* At least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day
Foods you should watch out for include:
* Refined grains
* Table and cooking fats
In moderation all of these foods are fine, a normal and health part of your teen's diet, but they should not make up the bulk of that diet. The lesson that your teen needs from you right now is all foods need to be eaten mindfully and in moderation. Don't beat your child over the head with this message either, instead, involve them in meal planning and shopping so that you can demonstrate it over the long term.
Remember that your relationship to food, and by extension your teen's, should be one that makes you happy. Eating is something that you will always need to do to live so it is important that you learn to do it well and enjoy the process. If you can communicate that lesson to your child successfully, then you will have helped them build the foundation for a healthy relationship with food.