5 Tips For Getting Your Teen To Eat Clean
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My son is still young, but I go to school with a lot of teens, and I see a lot of what they eat in any given day. It’s not pretty.
So what do you do if you’re eating clean but your teen refuses?
The simple truth is, once they have their own money, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible to control what they eat outside of your home. But whilethey are home, they are in your domain. And there are ways to get them to eat healthier while they are there.
Here are 5 tips and tricks for getting your teen(s) to eat clean.
- Have it available! Perhaps the most basic way to get them started is simply to make healthier foods available to them. I’ve heard from a few parent’s in the past who complain about how badly their kids eat, but bad foods are all that are available in the kitchen and cupboards. So be sure to stock up with your teen in mind.
- Teach them moderation. If you absolutely cannot get them to give up a certain junk food, then buy it at regular intervals. For example, if ice cream is common place around your house, then make the decision to only buy ice cream once every 1 or 2 months. Let your teen know about this. Tell them it’s up to them how long that one container of ice cream lasts. They can eat it all in one sitting, but then they have to go an entire month or more without any. Or, they can eat it in moderation and make it last. Either way, it won’t be purchased or brought into the house again until the designated time. (This works on adults too. Ehem…)
- Reward them. While it shouldn’t go on indefinitely, it’s okay to reward your kids for getting on the clean eating bandwagon. There are many different ways to do this. Have your child look for clean recipes online. If they find one that the whole family enjoys, they get a reward. Or maybe the teen (with siblings) who can convert a recipe to a clean version first gets a reward. Maybe helping in the kitchen a certain amount every week deserves a reward. After all, teaching them how to cook clean is just as important as helping them eat clean. Another idea for kids who enjoy cooking is to give them one clean ingredient and have them create an entire clean recipe around that one ingredient. Every teen is different. Find out what motivates them, and then use that to get them into the swing of things.
- Start a conversation. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to really talk to your kids about health. Don’t preach, start a real conversation. Find out what health concerns they have. Talk to them about what happens if you don’t take care of yourself. Talk about the foods you are preparing and why they are good for you. Talk about your family’s health history so your teens know what they need to watch out for as they get older. But no matter what you talk about, make it real, and make it count. Talk to them, not at them.
- Baby steps. Don’t hit your teen over the head with clean eating. Badgering them about it is a sure-fire way to get them to tune you out. Just as adults can’t usually change their eating habits over night, most teens won’t be able to either. Teach them that its little choices over the long haul that make a difference in their health. Baby steps can add up big time if you take enough of them. Help them look at their eating habits and find little changes they can make that won’t feel so overwhelming. Once they get the hang of it, they can make more and more changes as time goes on.
Above all else, be sure your teen knows you are serious about getting or being healthy yourself. Even though they are teens, they still need good role models. They look to you to show them the way. So make sure the path is clear and clean. Before you know it, your teen will be eating clean right along side you.
Article is an original work and is © Tiffany McCauley. It may not be reproduced for any reason without written permission by the author.
I actually leave my clean eating magazines and books around…they have picked them up and do a lot of these choices now on their own, which makes me thrilled!
Trish – what a FANTASTIC idea! Good for you!
This is awesome!
Well, I’m a teen that all ready likes to eat clean, but it can be a challenge to share my beliefs with my brothers. They all think I’m crazy and they don’t see the point. I try really hard to make yummy recipes that they’d never know are clean, but sometimes it doesn’t work. 😛
Kelsey – You are truly an exception! It’s so amazingly wonderful that you’ve chosen to eat this way. Sometimes it’s hard as a teen to see into the future very far, but I can tell you right now that you are saving yourself a heap of health issues down the road! You will never have to struggle with your weight and as those around you start to “get older”, you will still look and feel amazingly young! You are doing a great thing! Please keep up the wonderful work. And don’t give up on your brothers. My husband hates my cooking! But once I started cooking this way, I never went back. I figure if he wants to eat junk, that’s his business. I can’t stop him. All I can do is eat healthy and make sure my son does too. But like you, I try to sneak clean foods into his diet wherever I can. I can tell you that if you were my kid, I’d be beaming with pride. Go girl!
Kelsey, keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll have a bright, healthful future! 🙂 It’s never too early to start thinking and doing to improve one’s health.
I can empathize with trying to sneak things in. My aging stepfather refuses to eat healthfully. He drinks nothing but whole milk and corn-syrupy colas, but I’ve sometimes sneaked in some of my skim milk mixed with a little nonfat milk powder (it adds protein and creaminess without the fat)–and he never knew the difference! I hope that you don’t have to get that sneaky with your brothers. Try to find common ground in the few healthful things they may enjoy–they can’t hate every fruit and veggie out there. 🙂 Build from there. Maybe they haven’t had a food prepared in a way that they like, but there’s plenty of opportunities to try new methods and new ingredients to hit the mark for each discerning palette. 🙂
Blessed be now and always.
Charlena – Great advice!
Boys have to be the worst. My son turns 18 in January and is so far off the beaten path with his eating it drives me insane. He drives and works part time as well as goes to school and I have no control over what he eats out. I have been eating clean for 3 years, I bake all the good stuff, I make so many things and he would prefer to go out. Frustrates me beyond reason. I don’t give up though and I educate, educate, educate.
Helen – believe it or not, your persistence WILL pay off eventually. Don’t give up!
Hi Tiffany, great site! Just found you through Kalyn. We have been clean eaters here for a long time, and I think the key to getting teens to eat clean is to cook with your kids! We also follow Michael Pollan’s rule that if you’re going to eat junk food, make it yourself. I feed a houseful of teens (ours and other people’s) almost every weekend, and even the “drive-thru” eaters ask for our homemade food. They see us making homemade pizzas, organic potato skins (full of broccoli!), whole wheat quesadillas, and even fried chicken strips with homemade ranch (no nasty packet mix here). They know we’re feeding them with fresh, wholesome ingredients, organic as much as possible. Believe me though, they’ll eat a bowl full of freshly chopped fruit or a fresh homemade salad with just as much gusto!
Enjoying reading your recipes!
Andrea – Yes!!! It’s amazing how clean kids will eat if given the opportunity! I think most kids WANT to eat healthy, though some don’t know it until given the chance. Making those foods available, and yes, getting them involved in the kitchen are key components. Good for you for showing those kids that healthy food is delicious too!!!
Sandy – I’ll see what I can do! What kinds of things are their friends eating?
Penny – Awesome!
Sheri – Stick to your guns. Cook your healthy meals and continue to make those meals the only ones that are available. However, you have to allow room for kids to be kids as well. If you make too big of a deal out of it, they will fight it tooth and nail. So stick to your guns, but make allowances on occasion too. It’s all a balancing act. Keep the conversation going too. If nothing else, they will remember the information when they are older and realize that eating healthier is the only way to be healthy.
I just read a clean eating book and thought this was a great rule of thumb. Their family eats clean 80% of the time. Especially at home. On the rare occasion that they are out at a party or to dinner they allow themselves to eat what is available clean or not. She called it the 80-20 rule. Love your recipes btw!!
Kelley – Yep! That’s pretty much my philosophy as well. You have to allow for life to happen. 🙂