Work together with your daughter to promote a healthy lifestyle.

How to Talk to Girls About Exercise & Healthy Diet

by Penny Morris

A healthy diet and exercise are important tools to teach young girls so they may establish healthy eating habits. Having a serious conversation with your daughter educates her about the healthy needs of her body and helps her avoid harmful eating and exercise habits. According to a research study published in the June 2013 "Journal of American Medical Associates Pediatrics," a negative tone that emphasizes a girl's weight can lead to disordered eating and destructive behaviors. Talk to girls about being healthy, using positive language and promoting a healthy food and body relationship that girls can emulate.

Exercise Conversation

Talk about limits. The appropriate level of exercise depends on your daughter's age, health and general ability, but discourage multiple workouts without a rest day. Explain that her body needs time to rest and recover, so she should exercise in different ways on different days. An upper body weights workout one day could be followed by a cardio workout day, and then a lower body weights workout followed by a day of rest. Working all three areas in one day is overdoing it and may lead to anorexia athletica, also called compulsive exercising.

Help her to find an activity she likes. She doesn't have to go to the gym or run laps around the track if her real passion is rock climbing. Enroll her in a variety of athletic activities, such as basketball, volleyball, swimming, soccer or gymnastics. Let her find an activity she feels passionate about and encourage her participation.

Encourage her to use a pedometer during the day. The recommended number of steps for an adolescent is between 11,000 and 12,000, or 5.5 to 6 miles according to Pamela M. Peeke, M.D., as published in her article "Nutrition and Exercise Needs of Your Teen." Encourage her to park in the back of parking lots, to walk to the corner store instead of drive or take family walks together.

Talking About Healthy Diet

Health should be the main focus of the discussion. Health can come in a variety of sizes. Talk to her about the different types of food shown on the food pyramid, and ask her how she could incorporate all the elements into one healthy meal. Talk about correct portion sizes so she learns how to judge the size of a meal.

Give her a goal. A teenage girl needs extra protein, calcium and iron to fuel her healthy growth. Ask her to design a meal incorporating all of the necessary nutrients. Make a chart of the daily required nutrients, and let her check off when she's eaten the right amount. Encourage her to eat for her health and make food a friend to her body.

Let her be involved. Ask her what types of foods she likes to eat best, and then ask her how healthy she thinks they are. If it's not a typically healthy food, like ice cream, ask her what she thinks is healthy about it, perhaps she see it as a source of calcium. Ask her to think of a healthier alternative, such as sorbet or frozen yogurt.

Items you will need

  • Pedometer
  • Nutrient chart


  • Check with your pediatrician to provide positive healthy eating and exercise pamphlets to lead the conversation with your daughter.


  • Avoid telling your daughter to be thin or lose weight. This message can trigger disordered eating and exercise habits.

About the Author

Based in Tucson, Ariz., Penny Morris has been writing in both English and French since 2007. Morris has written articles on health and weight loss as well as foreign travel for various websites. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from Wright State University. Morris is a Licensed Zumba Instructor.

Photo Credits

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