Parents can influence a teen's dietary choices.

Are Parents Responsible for Their Teen's Eating Habits?

by Dr. Aleathea Wiggins

Opposing views exist concerning the issues surrounding the eating habits of teenagers. While many people believe that parents are responsible for their teen’s eating habits and the growing childhood obesity epidemic, others believe that it is impossible for parents to control what teenagers eat. Although it is more challenging to control the diets of teens than it is for younger children, parents can still influence what their teen eats by providing healthy food choices, eating together as a family, talking about the importance of healthy diets and setting positive dietary examples.

1. Provide Healthy Food Choices

Parents may not be totally responsible for the eating habits of their teenagers, but they do have a lot of responsibility. Children typically develop their food choices during the early years, so parents who stock their kitchens with healthy foods and snacks while their children are young set them up for healthier dietary preferences in the teen years. Even teens who consumed unhealthy diets when they were younger can be encouraged to switch to healthier choices. Parents are most often the ones who purchase the groceries and bring them into the home. Bring lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, pure fruit juices and whole grain snacks into your home. Your hungry teenager is likely to eat what is available and convenient.

2. Eat Together as a Family

Eating meals together offers positive benefits for teens. When families eat together, children and teens are more likely to eat healthier foods and less likely to become obese. Family meals tend to be more nutritionally balanced to include vegetables, grains and protein. However, when teens eat alone they are more likely to opt for junk food, like takeout pizza or fast food, and to eat in front of the television, which often leads to overeating and obesity.

3. Talk About Healthy Diets

Teenagers may not be aware of the serious health issues, such as heart disease and diabetes, that could arise from poor eating habits. Parents have a responsibility to talk to their children about the importance of a healthy diet and the negative affects of poor-quality, unhealthy foods on the body. Not only does poor nutrition affect health, it can also affect academics and attitude in teens.

4. Set Positive Dietary Examples

Parents are a primary role model in the lives of their children. Parents should set a positive example in terms of meals, snacks and beverages. Children and teens are more likely to maintain healthy dietary habits when that is what they are exposed to in the home environment. It is important for parents to keep convenient, healthy foods readily available at home; otherwise, teens will reach for unhealthy items that are available.

About the Author

Dr. Aleathea Wiggins is a writer specializing in health, parenting and family issues. She is a former university professor, curriculum facilitator, and teacher. Dr. Wiggins holds advanced degrees and credentials in journalism, education, health and childcare administration. She has worked as a professional writer since 2009.

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