By Guest Blogger Lisa Doss

Getting our kids to eat healthy is a challenge for every parent!  Junk food is readily available and sometimes, it seems easier to just give in to their wants.  And admit it — sometimes you want that cookie as much as they do!  TMOM is delighted to share this piece on teens and junk food written by Lisa Doss from Forsyth Family magazine.

Our world of quick and easy meals leaves many parents at a crossroads. Time is always a challenge, no matter the season. Children and teens spend their years being driven in various directions with little time to enjoy a well-balanced meal. Processed “junk” foods may not provide nourishment, except for the mind—to know food is coming, that is. It begins with a promise to ourselves to make better food choices, but perhaps that may not be enough.

With the word “summer” there are opportunities to eat cheeseburgers and hotdogs at family cookouts, ice cream any time of the day, and share a tub of buttered “movie” popcorn. Heat and hunger are also connected to an ideology. In this ideology, it may be simpler for teens to think of ice cream as a “cool” food in summer, rather than choosing to slice and eat fresh fruit. Fighting the battle against junk food requires a family effort; therefore, make a family decision to support one another in the task of choosing better and healthier foods. Here are four tips every family can implement, today!

Tip #1: Do Not Ban Junk Food
If you open your cupboard doors, what type of junk or processed food will you find? Everyone in the household has at least one favorite food item that is well stocked. Banning a food for “the cause” is not going to help your children and teens to stay away from a variety of chips and cookies, and such. It’s okay if your kids take advantage of the season by eating an occasional birthday cupcake or enjoying a hot fudge sundae with friends. Eating healthy is about making good choices, and finding another way to substitute junk food for great food.

Tip #2: Plan and Pack Ahead
It may take some time for your children or teens to gravitate towards fruit, for instance. In the meantime, set your family up for success! Until the supply of junk food is no longer required, stock the refrigerator and cupboard with wonderful snacks, such as yogurt, string cheese, raisins, fresh and sliced fruit, too.

As difficult as it is to get every family member in the same location, try to plan for at least three good meals a day. The oldest sibling can perhaps help put your “menu” into effect. Eating a great snack or meal before leaving the house will help teens avoid the temptation of choosing poor snacks or selecting fast foods, especially when socializing with friends. Teens who are spending time with friends may even find it “cool” to travel with a healthy snack or two.

Tip #3: Shop Smarter
Healthy eating begins with a plan for the grocery store. Elicit ideas from each member of the family concerning snacks and pre-planned meals. Finding healthy recipes online can be a special way to get the whole family involved. Since pizza night is anticipated all week long, try making your own; so, add pineapples and ham to the shopping list. Creating and following a list ensures the shopper is not tempted to include non-essential items. Since fighting for healthy food is a united decision, each member of the family also knows what food items are coming home.

Tip #4: Break the Cycle
Each of us has cravings. Similar to caffeine, regular doses of fat, salt, or sugar can create an addiction. Learning how to replace poor selections with good choices has lifetime health benefits. Once adults get into a positive dietary cycle, the children in the family will also follow a dietary lifestyle. Two additional suggestions to consider:

  • Encourage teens to stick to a particular amount, versus an endless bowl, especially while watching television, talking with friends, or as a passenger in the car.
  • Snacking often will fuel the body between meals.

The negative effects of unhealthy eating often start in youth. It is never too late to transition your child or teen away from processed, junk, or fast foods. Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer are a few health conditions that have become common in the last few decades. One solution is to unite the family in the cause of eating well. What may begin as a “summertime” promise may result in a dietary lifestyle for your children and teens.

This article has been reposted with permission from Forsyth Family magazine.