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Eating healthy at home
Explore fun videos, recipes, interactive mini-lessons and activities to learn more about the basics of nutrition and the importance of healthy eating.
Cook at home
Cooking at home can be a great way to teach your teen an important life lesson, plus it’s a great way to spend time together. It can also help avoid making unhealthy choices at restaurants as those meals often have higher amounts of calories, saturated fat and sodium. When your teen helps to prepare the meal, they may be more willing to try some new foods that they don’t typically eat.
Another benefit of eating at home is the ability to control portion sizes. Half of the plate should be fruits or vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter whole grains.
Watch the videos below and download the recipe sheets to get your teen involved in cooking at home.
Check out this no-bake energy balls recipe sheet for instructions and additional tips.
Download the cauliflower fried rice recipe sheet for instructions.
Check out this sweet potato fries with chipotle yogurt dip recipe for instructions and safety tips.
Shop together and keep healthy foods in the house
Start by making a list of things you need to help keep you on track while shopping. Be sure to include a variety of food groups and healthy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks and treats. Use this as an opportunity to teach your teen about reading food labels to help them become more aware of what they’re putting into their body. Pay close attention to serving sizes as well as the amount of sugar and sodium in foods!
Keeping healthy foods at home in the fridge, freezer and pantry will increase the likelihood that your teen will make healthier choices. Also, consider keeping a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter or o to encourage kids to eat a healthy snack. Keep things that are less healthy (chips, cookies) out of sight, so they are not the first thing that kids reach for.
Meal plan together
Make meal times enjoyable
All kids, even teens, are more likely to make healthy food choices when they see their parents modeling healthy foods choices in a pleasant environment. Set the expectation that everyone should make it home for family dinner whenever possible and make your meal time enjoyable. Turn electronics off and ask kids about their day and what's on their mind. Save unpleasant topics for a different time, so kids view their time at the table as something they can look forward to.
While you're eating together, take this time to have some meaningful conversations with your kids. Topics could include:
- Talking about the best part of the day
- Current events that are happening in the community or nationwide
- Plans for the evening or for the rest of the week
Choose healthy drinks
Healthy snack ideas
Helping you eat healthy
The importance of breakfast
Kids who miss breakfast often get hungry later in the day and may graze on less healthy options. If kids don’t eat breakfast, their performance at school can be impacted and they may feel tired, restless or irritable.
A balanced breakfast includes protein and fiber (from fruits, vegetables or whole grains) while trying to keep added sugars to a minimum.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Keep your kitchen stocked with quick and healthy breakfast options.
- Try and get everyone up 10 minutes earlier.
- Prepare as much as you can the night before.
- Have options prepared to take on the go for days when there isn’t enough time.
- Be sure to check out the breakfast options available at school as well.
Vitamin needs for teens
Eating a balanced diet is the best way for teens to get the vitamins and minerals that are needed each day. Important vitamins and minerals for teens include: Vitamins A, B, C, D and E as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.
How much should teens eat
The amount of food that your teen should eat varies best on their activity level. Here are some healthy eating tips to keep in mind:
o Make half of your grains whole grains (for example: brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta)
o Half of your plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables
o Choose low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurts
o Eat a variety of proteins
You can use this MyPlate Plan tool to figure out how much you or your teen should be eating from different food groups based on age, sex, height, weight and activity level.
Talking to your teen about healthy food decisions
Encouraging healthy weight management
What to do:
• Ask questions like “How do you think you could be healthier?” or “What could we do as a family to make better choices?”
• Offer teens nutritious food at meals and as snacks, and allow occasional treats.
• Model eating healthy foods and talk to your teens about how they help your body.
• Direct encouragement toward actions that can be controlled rather than physical appearance. “I’m so glad to see how active you’ve been this summer!” instead of “Wow, I can tell you’ve really gotten thinner!”
What not to do:
• Do not brush off or avoid the topic of weight or body image if your teen brings it up. Ask open ended questions to gather more information. There is usually a reason, like bullying or peer pressure, they are bringing up this concern in the first place.
• Do not restrict food at meals or promote “dieting.” Instead, encourage a structured eating schedule that limits grazing.
• Do not encourage the use of food as a reward. Giving unhealthy food as a reward sends a message that these foods are more valuable or special than healthy ones, a mindset that can stay with a child for life.