Helping your teenage son or daughter choose a healthy path isn’t always easy. Teens don’t like to be told what to do. They like to be in control of themselves—especially when it comes to their bodies. I’ve found that the best approach is to lead by example, provide suggestions and put the tools they need to make good choices right in front of them.
As the mother of a 13-year-old daughter, and a son who’s now in his twenties, I know all too well the challenges of keeping a teen on the track to good health. But the effort you put in now will be well worth it years down the road when your child is living the healthy lifestyle you envision for him or her.
Feeling healthy inside and out is also going to give your teen more energy and greater self-confidence, which will affect their choices and behavior every day. Here are a few ways you can start providing guidance today:
Work out together. Participating in exercise activities with your teen helps them to see that you you’re committed to physical fitness, too—that it’s not just something you’re trying to force on them. Don’t just drop your kids off at the gym. Visit with them, and take a class together. Exercise at this age needs to be fun. Ask your child what he or she is interested in, and find a class that fits.
Change bad habits gradually. If your teen is stuck in a diet rut, eating junk food or regularly skipping meals, take small steps to replace bad habits with good ones. Go grocery shopping together and let him or her pick out new, healthier foods. Encourage wholesome options such as fruits and crunchy vegetables with dip, peanut butter, popcorn, nuts and pretzels instead of chips or candy.
Teach portion control. This is another area where you can set a good example. Many times it’s not what a person eats that’s unacceptable, it’s how much of it he’s eating. Besides taking care not to overeat, encourage your child to eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day. Teens are always eating on the run, so be sure to keep grab-and-go snacks readily available. My family loves Kind Bars, which are all natural and filled with fruit, nuts and flax. I also keep bottled water, instead of soda or sugary juices, in the refrigerator.
Supply a multi-vitamin. No matter how hard you try to get your teen to eat healthy, there will be days her diet will be less than ideal. A good multi-vitamin supplement can help fill in nutritional gaps. I like Rainbow Light Active Teen, which provides vitamins and minerals plus probiotics and an herbal blend for skin health.
Encourage good hygiene. Good health includes more than diet and exercise. Make sure your teen has the supplies he or she needs for proper oral hygiene and skin care, too. If your son or daughter is prone to breakouts, a complete system such as the MyChelle Clear Skin Teen Anthology will take the guesswork out of cleansing and caring for skin while eliminating the need to purchase several different products.
Southern States Championships top contender Melissa Transou, a figure competitor, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports nutrition needs of female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com.