Eating for Life

May 14, 2003

9 ways to get teens off the junk food track

Eleven percent of adolescents 12 to 19 are considered overweight, nearly triple the number 20 years ago. Another 14 percent are at risk of becoming overweight.

  • Make "Read it before you eat it!" your family's snack time slogan. Learn to read nutrition labels and find out what's really in the food.
  • Make healthy foods fun, teen-friendly and easy to grab. Designate a special snack shelf in the refrigerator and cupboard and keep it stocked with healthy snacks. Try to serve healthy foods when your teens are hungriest - after school and before dinner.
  • Don't leave home empty-handed. Stock the car or backpack with your own healthy convenience foods such as baby carrots, fruit, cheese sticks, popcorn, peanut butter and crackers, trail mix, pretzels, pudding or yogurt.
  • Make family time healthy time. Visit farmers markets, orchards, pick-your-own farms. Teach them how to prepare healthy meals. Grow a garden. Exercise as a family.
  • Make breakfast the most important meal of the day. Eat anything that's nutritious - whether it's leftovers, warmed-over pizza or bean burritos.
  • Get real with serving sizes. Avoid temptation to order supersize meals. Share meals or take home the extra for lunch the next day.
  • Return soda to its rightful place as a once-in-awhile treat. Make your own natural sodas with a combination of seltzer and fruit juice. Let teens pocket the money they would have spent on soda.
  • Turn the TV off and get them moving. The teen will be exposed to fewer ads for junk food, too.
  • Try to have simple and nutritious family meals several times a week. Try to make it a relaxed and comfortable time for eating. Save arguments, criticisms, TV and phone calls for another time.

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