It’s time to move on from the chicken nuggets and fries. It might seem like everyday food battles are just another way to argue, but if your teen isn’t open to trying new things, it can lead to scary eating habits down the line. Anxieties about eating or cutting out certain food groups altogether can result in harmful eating disorders. While it’s easier to turn around picky eating when they’re still kids, it’s not impossible to reform a defiant teenage diet. We have you covered with some solid tips that will help develop your teen’s love for food, without them worrying too much and shutting down the idea of variety.
It’s Worth Spending the Extra Money
If you’re trying to get your teen to get out of their comfort zone with food, here’s a great way to get them to try new dishes: pick out a fancy restaurant you can try together. The awesome thing about taking your teen to a grown-up restaurant is that there are no kid options. This is an opportunity for them to get out of their usual eating habits and learn how to appreciate a mature palette.
Under the pressure to eat what all the other adults are eating, your teen might be more likely to try a new food, or at least the grown-up version of something they like. Social pressure is a great phenomenon to take advantage of as your teen will not want to be embarrassed by ordering off the kid’s menu every time they go out to eat at a nice place with friends or on dates. After establishing some new ‘fancy’ dishes that your teen will come to enjoy, you can take what you’ve learned home and try making it in the kitchen.
Teach Daily Nutrition
As a good parent, research is important to you when trying to tackle a problematic eater. Printing out the daily nutritional needs for your teenager and posting the information on the refrigerator will serve as a constant reminder that everyone needs to meet certain dietary goals. They will probably be a lot more responsive to a nutrition chart than a chore chart.
I suggest talking about how it’s important for the whole family to get their nutrition, it’s not just the teen. Try downloading some apps that will keep track of your diet and make it a family competition to see who can meet their nutritional goals. Maybe the winner gets to pick what’s for dinner. As you show your teen the importance of meeting dietary requirements, they might be more inclined to try new foods that give them a boost.
It’s really effective to create self-motivation in your teen so they are inspired to figure out how to get the right about of protein, calcium, and essential vitamins on their own. Try pointing out how the right nutrition will help them accomplish goals they already have. For example, if your teen is an athlete, you can teach them how eating certain foods will help their performance at practice. If your teen has trouble sleeping, inform them which foods can help them feel more satisfied before bed. Providing examples of how nutrition can accomplish their personal goals will spur a desire within your teen to get healthier. Self-motivation is a much better approach to encouraging your teen to try new foods than forcing them to eat something they don’t like just because the parent says they have to.
Talk to a Nutritionist
Some picky eaters refuse a variety of foods because they have anxiety about eating. Some teens are afraid of certain textures or certain colors of foods, and if the same food took on a different form, they might be more inclined to work it into their diet. Talking to a professional nutritionist or dietician can help you pinpoint the cause of bad eating habits. Plus, the professionals have amazing resources that can help motivate your teen to eat better without the advice coming from a parent and turning into an argument. A fresh face and advice from a pro could make the difference in motivating them to change their diet.
Hit the Magazines
There are so many awesome food publications out there like Sunset Magazine and Bon Appetite. Pick up some magazines and go through the recipes with your teen to find a dish you’d both like to cook together. Your teen will pick something new, and you will pick something healthy, negotiating the perfect combination.
Putting hard work into crafting a meal will make your teen more appreciative of the dish and more inclined to enjoy what they made. Exposure to new dishes could open a whole new world of cuisine for them. Try picking out a new recipe every week to introduce them to new, nutritious meals on a regular basis. As a bonus, cooking with your teen is a fun bonding experience and takes some of the load off your duties as a parent.
The Sweet Taste of Success
Encouraging your teen to eat well can be an ongoing battle, but we think these guidelines are great way to inspire your teen to try something new without adding extra stress. Before you know it, you’ll be going out to great restaurants, tracking your diet, and flipping through food magazines with your teen just for fun, it won’t be a struggle anymore. Cheers!
Five Ways to Get Your Teenager to Develop a Healthy Adult Diet
If your teen isn’t open to trying new things, it can lead to scary eating habits down the line. Here’s how you can get them excited about variety.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.