I remember being a teenager, and all the burgers, fries, pizza and sugary colas I consumed when out of my parents sight. It was fun, it tasted good and we were all enjoying them. I doubt if any of us thought about the calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium in them.
The downside of that is that it set us up for an adulthood that involved burgers, fries, pizza, etc., and that isn’t a good thing. Oh, an occasional treat is ok, but when it is a large part of our weekly menus, the pounds can start adding up. For this reason, it’s important to teach teenagers how to enjoy food that’s healthy, even if it comes from a fast food chain.
I learned a lot when I decided to try and undo all the damage this sort of “training” can involve. It wasn’t easy, but it is definitely doable. You can still enjoy normal teenage activities without the fat, cholesterol, pounds and so forth.
1) Do you *really* like the fries? I always ate fries because that’s what comes with a burger. Then I looked up the nutrition information on them and realized I don’t like them 500 calories worth. Nor do I like using my sodium allotment for two days on one packet. Unless you truly love this fried starch loaded with salt, you may want to skip them. I find apple slices a much tastier addition, and they have nutritional value, fiber and no fat or salt.
2) Parents, eat with your kids: Show them by example that there are good choices and that adults need to have the same consideration for their health. The rule of thumb is that your kids, especially teenagers, will do eighty percent of what you do right and one hundred percent of what you do wrong.
3) Learn how to choose: Most restaurants have nutrition information available on-line. Prior to going out with the gang, look up the menu of the place you are going and figure out in advance what is healthy and what is not. Most fast food chains are working on adding healthy options, so they are available.
4) Sodium difficulties: It may not seem like a big deal when you are a teen, but by the time you reach middle age, sodium is going to be a major consideration, especially if you don’t start watching it now. Read the nutrition labels and note it when you are looking it up on-line. It may seem like a small thing, but keep in mind that if you are healthy, the maximum amount you should consume is 2400 a day. If you’re not, it’s 1200 a day. You can see why the 500 mgs of sodium in the fries might be a deterrent.
5) Solving fat cravings: We all have them; it’s hardwired into our brains. We also actually need to consume some fat so that the fat soluble vitamins can be absorbed. What’s needed is to choose fat wisely. As an example, an avocado is a much better choice than bacon when considering a salad or sandwich. Both will satisfy the craving, but the avocado has unsaturated fat while the bacon is saturated.
If you are a teen and you are having difficulties figuring out how to remain healthy and still enjoy typical teenage activities, speak to your parents or your doctor. They may also suggest a nutritionist, who can help you navigate. Parents, it’s important that we step up to the plate and help your children learn how to eat well. This will help our kids have a long, healthy life.
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