Junk food, addictive computer games, sedentary lifestyles, eating disorders...the average teenager’s life is simply riddled with stuff to make a mother’s life difficult. Here are some strategies to make this a year of healthy choices for your adolescent
Healthy Mindsets: Teens are horribly self-conscious of their changing bodies. Often, they want to sit in one place so that they feel less conspicuous (especially teenaged girls) which might lead to weight gain. Indolent as teens are, this is the age when looking good suddenly becomes of prime importance. Teens want to look cool. Use that to encourage them to be physically active and exercise regularly.
Do this: Explain to your 18 year-old daughter that curves do not equal fat, so that she doesn’t spend the rest of her life trying to diet her body back to her thin, un-formed 16 year old figure.
Good Food Choices: Don’t just talk calories - talk nutrition! Explain the concept of good carbohydrates like wheat, rice, oats and bran versus bad carbohydrates like refined flour. It’s important for teens to know, right from the word go, that despite their high sugar content, a handful of raisins are a better treat than a slice of cake, because of the high levels of potassium and other minerals found in raisins.
Try this: Casually let fall a useful tidbit, such as how fresh fruit and vegetable juices are good for a glowing skin. Watch how your teen's softdrink-dependency disappears!
Shopping for the right foods: Teens with pocket money to spend and a huge choice of things on which to spend it need to know what they’re buying, especially if they’re putting it into their mouths.
Give your teen some street smarts! Any teen can shop at a supermarket, and most do. It’s not just enough to cross things off the supermarket shopping list, though. Some of the freshest produce comes from handcarts, so teach your teen to shop confidently even from a vendor on the street corner.
Teach this: Teach teens to how to select and buy fruits like guavas, oranges, jamuns, bananas, apples, plums or cherries from fruit sellers when they feel hungry in the middle of a shopping trip
Fight the ‘it’s too cold’ rationalization: Do cold-weather meals come with a large side of guilt in your home? Winter doesn’t have to mean a seasonal piling up of angst and inches - having the right kind of food can actually lead to a trimmer, healthier you! For all you mammas out there shivering at the thought of making (let alone serving up or eating) those cold, clammy salad veggies when there's a nasty nip in the air, going the soup route can help keep everyone's diet on track.
Encourage this: Thanks to the green tea getting super-trendy, teas like Earl Grey and Orange Pekoe are readily available in the market. Don't worry if your teens splurge on specialty tea - it's way better than them developing a taste for designer brewery beers. Kick off the new year with the best gift you can give your teen - the gift of good habits that’ll keep them fit and strong for a lifetime. Here's to good health!