Kids and teenagers have very different lifestyle and dietary needs compared to adults. If you’re an adult and have kids of your own, I am sure you would have experienced your kid’s seemingly endless amounts of energy and unhealthy desire for fast foods and sweets. If you yourself are a kid or a teenager, I am sure you are tired of your parent’s nagging and complaints of “stop eating McDonalds!”, “eat your veggies!”, “have some fruit”, “chips again?!” and various other eating objections.
The truth is; if kids or teenagers don’t eat well, they will not develop properly, they will be more likely to be overweight, they will be more susceptible to various illnesses, cardiovascular diseases and acne, and they are more likely to have erratic moods, experience depression and basically, experience a lower level of enjoyment of life.
Now, the million dollar question is; “If I am a parent, how am I going to get my kids to eat healthily, or, if I’m a teenager or a kid, how do I start eating healthily?”.
For parents: The first important advice I can give you is: Kids imitate people they feel are good role models. Hence, trying to get your kids to eat healthily has to start from yourself. Once you are having a healthy diet and enjoying a healthy lifestyle, your kids will naturally start to develop healthy eating and living habits themselves. I have further listed below other advice and tips that I recommend to help promote healthy eating and living to your kids:
Eat together: When the entire family is sitting at the table eating breakfast or dinner, your children will observe what you have cooked or eating. Furthermore, meal times are the best way of maintaining and developing closer relationships with your kids as families naturally tend to have conversations over meals. Besides the health benefits of a nutritious balanced meal, studies have shown that kids who have stable family relationships have higher self-esteem and tend to do better in school.
Get them involved: Whether you’re shopping for groceries or cooking your meals, get your kids involved. Learn to read nutritional labels and teach them to your kids when you’re shopping. Compare and contrast the difference in nutritional content between products (ie. Potato chips and noodles) and help them select the healthiest meals and snacks for their lunch boxes. The key is to also give them a bit of freedom for them to choose which food products they want. If they select something that is unhealthy, gently remind them of the nutritional content and advise them that they should only eat them occasionally as a treat. When cooking, show them what really goes into the foods they eat and let them help up by ‘decorating’ and garnishing the food, stirring the soup or setting the table, etc. This encourages kids to be proactive at home, understand about nutritious foods and promote family togetherness.
Have healthy snacks within reach, put unhealthy snacks out of reach: Place fruits in a fruit bowl on the kitchen bench where it is most convenient and where everyone can see. Or have pre-cut fruits such as watermelon and place them in a Tupperware in the fridge for optimal taste and ease if your kids are craving a quick snack. Nuts and low fat pretzels make great snacks too, so open a packet and pour them into a bowl for easy access. Snacks like chocolate, high calorie muesli bars and sweets should be stored in the top cabinet out of sight. The less your child sees it, the less likely he/she will eat it!
Use Supplements: If your kids are not touching their veggies or your teenager is having erratic eating habits due to peer group and social activities, supplements are a great way of compensating the lack of nutrients arising from an unbalanced diet. For kids, look for supplements that have ‘fun’ flavors and shapes to make them enticing but ensure that it is free from any artificial flavors and sweeteners. Nutrients that are important to kids around 5-12 years of age include calcium for growing bones and zinc for improved and sharper memory. Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, folate, biotin and niacin are also important in providing your kids sufficient antioxidants for optimum protection against illnesses and optimal immune function. For teenagers, look for a supplement that covers and provides a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals for optimum body support as this is the stage where their body is undergoing the most growth and development. Essential nutrients include Vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, Biotin, Calcium, Folate, Iodine, Lutein, Lycopene, Magnesium, Niacin, Riboflavin, Rutin, Selenium, Thiamin, Tumeric extract and Zinc. Ensure that the supplement you’re purchasing have these vitamins and minerals as a minimum in order to ensure healthy immune functionality and optimum health for their growing adolescent bodies.
Now, for kids and teenagers: The first rule about sustainable healthy eating is: Do not eliminate junk food entirely out of your life. If you try and do so, this will normally lead to intense junk food cravings which sooner or later, you’re likely to give in and binge on. The trick is to enjoy the unhealthy stuff occasionally, and substitute or swap the unhealthy stuff for the healthy stuff regularly!
I have listed a few healthier junk food alternatives ideas to get you started. But… be creative! The options of a healthier alternative can be endless!
Burger <————–> Sandwich with lean meat and less dressing
Chicken nuggets <————–> Actual real chicken covered in bread crumbs and baked
French fries/Hot chips <————–> Baked grilled chips with herb seasoning and minimal salt
Deep fried chicken <————–> Grilled chicken
Chips <————–> Nuts, pretzels,crackers, Grainwaves chips, microwave popcorn
Muesli bar <————–> Muesli with honey or low fat, high fiber chocolate health bar
Ice cream <————–> Frozen yogurt, smoothies and health shakes
Pastries <————–> Bagels/rye bread with a thin layer of low fat strawberry jam
Chinese takeaway <————–> Sushi
Takeaway pizza <————–> Home-made pizza using pita bread as a base and fresh ingredients with low fat cheese
Remember to also get plenty of sleep for best health results! Sleep is important as it improves your alertness and concentration (so you can do better at school!) and is the only part of the day where your body gets a chance to fully recuperate, recover and heal. Sleep, together with exercise, will also help increase your energy levels to help you last through your classes. Exercise, in combination with a healthy diet, will prevent sickness and help support a healthy physique and a healthy growing body… which you want!
Lastly, avoid cigarettes and alcohol. There is a reason why they’re frown upon. Both cigarettes and alcohol will affect your mental and physical health and increase your chances of developing diseases and lung cancer. The longer you have been indulging in them, the harder it is for you to quit and avoid them. So be smart, start young, start cultivating healthy habits early, and avoid harmful addictive habits and lifestyles.
If you’re interested and would like more guidance and information on achieving a balanced diet and the consequences of a deficient diet, please visit for more articles specifically relating to these topics.
But for now, remember, important healthy eating and living habits start from young and will stay with you for life. So…as parents would say… Eat your veggies! (Or at least some of it!)