Teenagers and nutrition- Parents, stand your ground
By:Lisa Millar, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, BA, ECE
By:Lisa Millar, Certified Holistic Nutritionist
Should you be concerned about your teenager’s eating habits?
Recently I had a reader ask a question about how to get her teenage kids to stop “fighting” with her about eating properly. They are a busy family with many after school activities and mom and dad find it easier to grab something quick to eat rather than make time for a sit down dinner. Attempts have been made to pack healthy choices to have while on the go, but there is always some sort of protest or time constraint.
Does this sound familiar to you? Here is my list of solutions that may help.
Teenagers have a different set of nutritional requirements than younger children. Their increased needs for protein and healthy fats are often being ignored and replaced with poorer food choices such as processed foods, fast foods and soda or sugary drinks. Parents may find it hard to influence their food choices between the years of 11 to 18, (when peer pressure takes over), and teens are hurried because of other commitments such as after school activities or part time jobs. The result is an adolescent diet high on the glycemic index (this index, used by many in the field of nutrition, measures how quickly specific foods/sugars get absorbed into our systems).
So, what can we, as parents do help them out?
1. Make sure what they eat when they are with you is packed with nutrients by increasing their intake of complex carbohydrates. Being lower on the Glycemic Index, these foods will help your teenagers feel full longer and are more nutrient dense. Whole grains, legumes, sweet potatoes/yams (with the skin on) and other root vegetables are some examples of good choices. See below for my Black Bean Brownie recipe. It is de-lish-ous!
2. Make your own snacks. Your kids are always on the go and need quick, portable food. If you don’t mind baking, make muffins or loaves with extra fiber and healthy fats (ground flax, chia and nuts are easily incorporated into baked goods), and add your own fruit (dried or fresh) for sweetness and “bonus” vitamins! Other quick and portable ideas might be hard boiled eggs, cheese and crackers, hummus and veggie sticks, nuts, and smoothies.
3. Be supportive. This may seem like a small thing to do, but the simple gesture goes a long way. Have items like fresh fruit, fresh veggie sticks, yogurt, and trail mix available to them at all times. Ask them what they would like stocked in the pantry or fridge that they will eat (always guide them towards healthy choices of course). And please don’t forget- we as parents are our children’s best ROLE MODELS. Even at this age, they look up to us. So, if you want them to make better choices, they should see you doing the same
Black Bean Brownies-Makes 16 servings
• 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
• 3 large eggs
• 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• ¾ cup granulated sugar
• ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ tsp baking powder
• Pinch of sea salt
• ½ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 8×8 inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Place the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, baking powder and sea salt and process until smooth. Add ¼ cup of the chocolate chips and pulse a few times until the chips are incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup chocolate chips.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing into 2 inch squares.