It's hard to get teens to eat right, but there are ways to get them nutrition without hog-tying and force-feeding them.
- TIP: Make good meals a daily ritual, insisting on your entire family being present at meals. Research suggests that families communicate better and form a closer unit as a result.
- Step 1: Insist on drinks with calcium, fortified with vitamin D, rather than soft drinks. Hard cheeses, calcium-enhanced orange juices, yogurt, and low fat cottage cheese also contribute toward the 1,300 milligrams needed for strong bones.
- FACT: Research shows that high school freshmen and sophomore girls who drink soda rather than milk are 3 times as likely to suffer a bone fracture.
- Step 2: Allow the teens to participate in choosing the menu each week. Expect them to try everything served at least once, even if they eat very little or decline after that. Widening their horizons will pay dividends later.
- Step 3: Practice what you preach and eat a balanced diet yourself, making certain the entire family has healthy snacks like hummus, peanut butter, fruit, yogurt, grain crackers, and whole wheat toast to choose from.
- Step 4: Select foods that are fresh and natural -- with fiber, vitamins, and minerals -- such as low fat dairy products, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Step 5: Monitor their diet to be sure it's rich in vitamin C with plant iron, which increases uptake for energy. Couple these with 40 to 60 grams of protein in meals of beef, poultry, pork, clams, and eggs to ensure they are getting enough iron in their diet.
- TIP: Teens who choose to be vegetarians or vegans should nutritionally supplement their diet with other protein. Tofu is a good source, as are beans, and nuts.
- Step 6: Teach children to eat at least 3 well-rounded meals daily, rather than skipping, snacking, or indulging in fast foods. If more frequent but lighter meals are required to achieve the level of nutrition desired, be flexible.