Teen Obesity: 5 Tips To Encourage Healthy Choices

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It’s no secret that teens have a tendency to overeat, particularly when pizza, chips and other tasty snacks are on the plate. Add to that their increasingly tech-driven existence—iPhones, video games and the old-fashioned tube—and putting on extra pounds is becoming all too easy for teens, even with their relatively fast metabolisms.

Research shows 70 percent of obese teens will hang on to their extra pounds for life. That number jumps to 80 percent if one of their parents is also obese. But this isn’t news to take sitting down. Sure, it may feel like your teen’s eating habits are mostly out of your control and it can be a sensitive topic to bring up, but the following five strategies can help you create an environment of change—while being somewhat discreet.

  1. Serve breakfast. Research consistently supports the benefits of eating a healthy, well-balanced breakfast. This means a meal that includes good carbohydrates and fiber (think: whole grains, fruits and vegetables), along with protein (think: low-fat or nonfat dairy, eggs or lean breakfast meats). In addition to helping kids stay alert and focused, studies show a.m. eating pushes off cravings and helps dieters control their weight.
  2. Ditch the junk. One of the most important rules of healthy eating is to keep the unhealthy stuff out of your kitchen. Make fruits, vegetables and small portions of nuts and seeds easily available. Leave unhealthy foods, like cookies, chips and other high-fat snacks, on store shelves.
  3. Approach veggies in new ways. Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean salads at every meal. Instead, teach your teen new ways to include veggies in their diet. Keep washed and chopped veggies on hand for quick and easy snacks. Add lettuce, tomatoes and spinach into sandwiches, chopped onions, peppers and mushrooms to pasta sauce and leafy greens, like kale, spinach and broccoli, into smoothies.
  4. Encourage activity. Rather than sitting in front of the TV on a lazy Sunday, plan a nature hike, shoot hoops in the backyard or create an indoor obstacle course. Run up and down stairs, jump rope and create stations throughout the house for squats, push-ups and pull-ups. Is your son or daughter set on watching a certain weekly sitcom? Create a bartering system where your teen has to complete an exercise circuit during commercial breaks. Even then, make it a goal to limit screen time to 2 hours or less per day.
  5. Be a role model. Our kids learn by watching us. If you smoke, stop. If you’re inactive, get moving. And if you eat junk, clean up your diet. Most importantly, eat meals together as a family. You (and your kids) will not only eat more slowly, allowing your brain and body time to digest what you’ve eaten, you’ll also set the stage for healthy communication.

Like adults, kids often turn to food for comfort and soothing. Sometimes, our bodies call for energy (in the form of food) when what we really need is rest or hydration. Teach your teen to remember this acronym before every meal and snack:

HALT

H – Am I hungry?
A
– Am I angry?
L
– Am I lonely
T
– Am I tired?

Still concerned about your teen’s eating habits? Talk to your doctor about your child’s risk factors and keep an eye out for signs of a growing problem, including darkened skin or thickening skin around the neck (a sign that your child’s body is having difficulty controlling blood insulin levels). Your doctor should also be able to recommend a weight management program if needed.


To find a primary care physician that meets your teen’s needs, visit henryford.com/findadoc.

Categories: EatWell