Feeding teenagers is hard, even more so then little kids! I was pretty careful with my kids when they were little. I bought organic baby food and snuck ground up kale into everything. I held off on giving them sweets until they were older. I did my best to keep them from MSG and food dyes and McDonalds. But it was hard! and from a young age we went to parties, and playdates. Even events at the library had treats, unless you homeschool your kids and choose their friends there is no way you are keeping them away from everything “bad”. So early on I decided to do my best in my own house, teach them what I could about making wise food choices and not stress out too much about what friends and Grandma gave them when I wasn’t around.
I grew up with some pretty severe allergies, bad eczema from a young age and my parents were really into health trying to cure me. And although I now know they were doing their best and reading and studying everything they could, all I remember as a kid is that I was different. I had special snacks at school, I hid my lunch in my lunch bag because my sandwich was on rice bread (that my mom made and it crumbled, there were no gluten free options back then!) I had special cakes at my birthday parties and when my neighbors weren’t home I would sneak into their garage that had a fridge and “borrow” a coke or a slice of orange american cheese every now and then (sorry Susie if you read this!). When I had a chance to eat junk I went crazy because I never had it at home.
I think it is really important to model good eating habits for your kids, teach them to make healthy choices and involve them with cooking or planting a garden. Have healthy choices in your house, but if you have nothing “good” in the house (as my kids would say) then you may find them sneaking things at other peoples house, lying and going a little crazy when you are not around. This does not mean I have Doritoes, Gatorade or Oreo’s lying around the house. What that means is unless your child has a medical issue or a severe allergy there are healthier options for just about anything out there. How about regular organic corn chips with salsa or guacamole, Trader Joe’s light lemonade (made with stevia) or sparkling water or a healthier cookie option like Back to Nature, Annie’s mac-n-cheese with no food dye or something you bake together? Sometimes they are more expensive but not always! They are not perfect and they are not a name brand so I still get guff. But they get the job done and I still keep the food additives, coloring, high sugar items and corn syrup out of my house. And I make sure I tell my kids why. They may roll their eyes but every now and then I hear them say something that makes me know they heard what I said!
I let my kids buy lunch at school when they want. I find that independence helps them make wise choices, makes them feel grown-up and makes it easier for me to have healthier choices at home. I love when I ask my son everyday what he had and he says a sandwich and water. And he always emphasizes the water so that I know he picked that over soda or juice! He goes out for dinner or ice cream with friend sometimes, and I know he’s not always making the best choices he’s a teenage boy! But I feel good knowing that he might re-consider having a Coke or he might get a small size instead of a large, or he might even have a conversation about health with his friends!
My substitute above for my kids is Trader Joe’s Rice Noodle bowl, our substitute for Ramen Noodles. It’s not perfect! The seasoning mix contains autolyzed yeast extract which can be another term for MSG and it’s high in sodium 1250mg. But we are not eating it everyday! I also encourage them to add an egg for some extra protein when we make it. It kind of tastes like egg drop soup. I like that it is rice noodles versus wheat and does not contain Monosodium Glutamate, hydrolyzed corn and soy protein, carmel color, vegetable oil, artificial flavors and TBHQ a food preservative which according to the FDA is safe in small doses like in food, (you’d have to eat 62 packs of ramen noodle flavoring to get the 1g you need for it to be dangerous) but there have been many reports of severe reactions to it and although there are mixed scientific studies on it I am not a fan of processed foods that have to be preserved to have an extended shelf life! Learn to read labels!
We are all doing the best we can. But teaching our kids early to make healthy choices (which they won’t always do!) and educating them on why, is a really important part of being a parent. You don’t necessarily have to talk about organic and GMO’s etc just teach them to read a food label, to look at the serving size and the grams of sugar, talk about what sugar does to our bodies. Encourage them to eat fruits and veggies (organic or not, I don’t care!) and protein, not just white carbs. I’ve heard people say “but they are only kids once!” And I agree! Going for ice-cream is fun. But make it a treat, not an everyday occurrence You are setting them up for bad habits if you never talk about it. I have one who likes carbs best, she would eat mac-n-cheese every meal if I let her. And I do let her often but we also discuss why you need to have some protein and vegetable with it. I never thought she would get better but as a sixth grader she is finally trying new things! Be persistent. Offer new things, bargain (if you try this you can have what you want too) Don’t give up!
A great movie to watch as a family…..