Nutrition Strategies for Junk Food Addicted Tweens & Teens Print

Listen to my monthly radio program with Angela Kokott, host of Calgary Today for our segment, “You are what you eat” to get the goods on healthy eating.

Listen to episode 70 here.

QR77 radioHow parents can help support healthy eating at home.

Overall what are today’s tweens and teens eating?

Like any age group, there are a wide range of food choices that tweens and teens are consuming ranging from teens that eat a balanced healthy diet, all the way to those that live on fast food and junk food.  Some kids are experimenting with vegetarian diets while others are failing to eat vegetables for weeks.

CandiesOne of the key challenges facing tweens and teens is the high consumption of calories they are consuming from sugar. The primary source of sugar between the ages of 9-18 years is regular soft drinks accounting for 14% of sugar intake and confectionary (such as candy and chocolate) accounting for 10% of sugar intake[1]. Childhood obesity is linked to overconsumption of sugary beverages as well as can take the place of more nutrient dense foods needed for good health and prevention of disease.

Are there more tweens and teens struggling with their weight?

Childhood obesity among children and youth in Canada has nearly tripled in the last thirty years. Youth that are obese are at a higher risk of developing health issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea, bone and joint issues, abnormal menstrual cycles as well as significant emotional problems such as depression and negative body image.  Overweight teens are also more likely to remain overweight adults and experience bullying.

However, it is important to also keep in mind that there are also many kids that are a healthy weight and others that are underweight and struggle to take in enough food to fuel rapid growth and sport requirements.  It is key not to make blanket statements about which foods are so-called “good” and which foods are so-called “bad” since many kids in this age group are struggling with body image dissatisfaction, disordered eating and are prone to eating disorders.  Our goal as parents, caregivers and health professionals is to help establish healthy habits at home while promoting that all foods can fit.

What is the best way to get kids on board with healthy eating?

The number one most effective way to get your teenager eating healthy foods to first look at your own eating habits as a parent or caregiver as well as the food choices you are offering and supplying in your home.  We don’t have much control over what they will choose at cafeterias, convenience stores and fast food outlets but we can model good habits and choices at home.  It is also key to remind them of what they CAN do versus what they SHOULD do since no one likes to be told what they can and can’t have.

Involve kids in meal planning and get them to “drive dinner” while making healthier versions of their favorite foods.  Make healthier meal nachos with lean ground meat or beans, grated cheese, corn, red peppers, salsa and guacamole. Pizza can be made healthier with whole grain crusts, lots of veggies and a plate of raw veggies and dip to snack on while the pizza cooks.  Burgers are a popular choice using lean meat or poultry, whole grain buns and by adding a side salad and homemade fries (toss sliced potatoes or yams in olive oil with a pinch of salt and bake).

How can I manage junk food my kids want to eat?

It is important to teach them how to manage “fun foods” such as sweets and savory foods chosen more for taste, celebration and social fun. This means teaching embracing a philosophy that all foods can fit.

If you don’t include any fun foods at home, your child may eat a dozen cookies at a friends house rather than a couple since basic psychology suggests we all want what we can’t have. The healthiest, most flexible eaters lifelong have exposure to a wide variety of all foods.

Instead of telling your teen they can only have two cookies when they want to eat the bag, look at the timing and tell them they can have cookies after dinner or suggest they pair the cookies with a glass of milk and fruit to round out the snack.

What is the best way to manage after school snacks?

Remember that most teenagers are on what I refer to as the “see food” diet.  What they see is what they will eat.  Don’t expect them to go digging in the bottom of the drawer to find the fruit or to think about chopping up raw veggies.  The best way you can support them at home is having the healthy choices at the front of the fridge ready to go or on the counter to easily grab.  Each week build healthy platters and place them at the front of the fridge (for example a fruit tray with yogurt dip, raw veggie and dip tray, whole wheat pita and hummus platter).  Try putting the smoothie ingredients in the blender in the fridge for them to simply blend when they come home.  Prepare some make ahead thin crust pizza slices or build snack containers that have fruit, sliced cheese or hard cooked eggs and homemade muffins.  They key is making it easy to see and easy to grab.

Top after school snack attacks:

  1. Reheat frozen homemade pizza slices, pizza bagels, soup or French toast.
  2. Batch cook oatmeal with raisins and apples and portion in individual bowls to reheat.
  3. Ready to go bento box of nuts, dried fruit and whole grain crackers.
  4. Leave the smoothie blender on the counter and place yogurt and milk in the blender in the fridge so all kids have to do is add banana and frozen berries or mango.
  5. Hard cooked eggs and whole grain crackers or toast.
  6. Fruit and “yonut” dip platter (cantaloupe, melon, pineapple, grapes, berries served with a dip made from mixing yogurt and nut butter).
  7. Homemade muffins or energy bars and pre-sliced or cubed cheese.
  8. Premade yogurt parfaits with yogurt, berries and granola.
  9. Taco chips, salsa and guacamole.
  10. Platter of raw veggies, pita and hummus.
  11. Whole grain wrap with nut butter and rolled around a banana.
  12. Teach them how to make one-pot mac and cheese (see recipe healthstandnutrition.com/mac-and-cheese/)

Click here for a printer-friendly PDF of this article

[1] http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2011003/article/11540-eng.htm

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
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Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
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“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
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Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
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Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
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Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

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“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
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Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
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ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
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