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

Man shopping in grocery store with his sonStart 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

Allow each teen to plan one healthy meal or snack using MyPlate concepts to encourage portion control and incorporate the five food groups appropriately. As they get better at it, your teen/s could plan an entire day's meals or all dinners for one week. Then use their planned meals to create your grocery shopping list.

Make meal times enjoyable

Family eating together around a tableAll 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

Sugar and calories are often hidden in beverages such as sports drinks, juices, soda, flavored milks and teas, and there usually aren't nutrients in these beverages. Stick to water or low-fat milk to avoid these extra calories.

Healthy snack ideas

Sugar and calories are often hidden in beverages such as sports drinks, juices, soda, flavored milks and teas, and there usually aren't nutrients in these beverages. Stick to water or low-fat milk to avoid these extra calories.

Helping you eat healthy

The importance of breakfast

Healthy breakfast yogurt bowlKids 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:

  • Make half of your grains whole grains (for example: brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta)
  • Half of your plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurts
  • 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

When talking to your teen about food, try to avoid using words like "good" and "bad" to describe foods. Instead, emphasize the need for a balanced diet and appropriate portion sizes and discuss the benefits of healthy foods. If your teen makes an unhealthy food decision, try to redirect them to a healthy option instead of reprimanding them. Involve your teen when you're planning meals for the week, and when possible, take their suggestions into account.

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.

Resources and online activities

  • Check out this tip sheet about nutrition labels.
  • This sheet on healthy food shopping can give you some tips for making healthy choices at the grocery store.
  • Learn more about vegetarian diets by checking out this fact sheet.
  • Check out this fact sheet to learn more about sugar.