Do you remember the saying “Little kids little trouble, big kids big trouble”? Well, it actually is true. Once your kids become teenagers, it’s really hard to be a parent, especially if you’re trying your best to instill healthy habits in them. Eating cleanly and working out are very important for every human, but teens can benefit from it in many ways: healthy development, healthy weight and great habits for the future. So how do you motivate your teen to eat well and exercise?
Buy healthy goods
It’s great to give your teen a lot of responsibility, but you still control most of the things in your household, which includes grocery shopping. Your teen might pester you for frozen pizza, chicken nuggets and other unhealthy foods, but you should focus more on whole foods and real usable ingredients for cooking. Trust, teens are super hungry and won’t starve—they will eat your healthy meals and grab healthy snacks if they have no junk food to turn to.
Forget about cleaning the plate
Many of us parents were terrorized in childhood by this rule: No leaving the table until you clean your plate. This rule sounds reasonable since you as a parent struggle so much to put food on the table, but it’s not good for your teens’ relationship with food. Enforcing the clean-the-plate rule can lead to overeating, aversion to food or stressing about dinner time. Teens are old enough to listen to their bodies and stop eating when they are full. However, make sure to insist on trying new foods, building kids’ palates and developing their taste.
Cooking with parents is not something teens consider good fun, but if you encourage them to participate in meal preparation, many of them will actually do it and enjoy it. Cooking is a great way to educate kids about proper nutrition, different ingredients and different ways to prep and serve foods. Start with simple recipes they can remember and recreate on their own. If you need some inspiration, a good motherhood app and moms on there will help you with great recipes and neat tricks on how to attract teens into the kitchen. Share with other mothers your issues, and they will surely provide you with many great ideas on how to solve them.
Don’t count calories
Many teens are obsessing about their weight, so when talking about healthy eating, focus on nutritional values instead of calories. Similarly, explain to your teens that it’s important for them to be healthy and not look one way or another. This will develop a much healthier relationship with food and great future eating habits.
Set an example
This is probably the most effective, but also the hardest tip on this list. Kids, no matter their age, are like sponges that soak up and imitate everything that’s happening at home, usually subconsciously, so make sure to be a good role model for your teens’ eating and exercise habits. If you manage to show your teenagers how to eat well and stay fit by example, they will be encouraged to do the same. When it comes to eating, ditch junk food and unhealthy snacks in the evening. You can also dust off your bike and ride it to do your errands or visit a friend.
Invest in good things
Kids usually get a lot of presents during the year (for birthdays, Christmas, end of the school year, etc.) so when buying gifts, make sure to consider what kind of habits they will trigger in your kid. If you want to encourage your teen to be more active, consider these gifts for active teens: free weights, a new bike or skateboard, a standup paddleboard, a fitness tracker, a GoPro, a new hiking backpack or anything else that will encourage time outside.
Be active as a family
There’s no way your teen will say yes to hitting the gym with you, but they might be fine with accompanying you on a bike ride or a short jog. Weekend hikes are also a great way to get the entire family outside and walking. Just find your local hike guide, pick a trail and go exploring! It’s also possible to organize family beach time and try swimming, throwing Frisbee and playing beach volleyball. If you find activities that guarantee your little crew won’t run into anyone from school (teens are notoriously embarrassed to spend time with parents), and everyone will have a lot of fun.
In many cases, setting limits only encourages your teen to find ways to break your rules, but you should still have some rules in place. For instance, you can limit screen time on TVs, laptops and smartphones. Left without anything to do, your teen might choose to go out, help around the house or practice any other type of activity that doesn’t involve staring into a screen.
Forming new habits is not hard, especially if you have bad foundations, but it’s possible to teach your teen a lot of healthy-living tips and tricks. Use these ideas above to shape your teens and they will soon sprout into healthy adults.