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Feeding Your Teenager

Parents can help teens learn to make healthy food choices.
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The Dieting Dilemma continued...

"Schedule an appointment with your child's primary-care physician to help minimize the food-related arguments between you and your child," she says.

Diagnosing and treating eating disorders is not easy. Neither is preventing them. Keep disparaging remarks about your own body, as well as your child's, to yourself to encourage a healthy weight and strong self-esteem.

"Parents who diet constantly or make negative comments about their bodies or certain foods can pass along their disordered relationship with food to their children," Sonneville says.

Teen Talk

You want your 14-year-old to lay off the fries and learn to love broccoli. Why? Because you know that eating vegetables is linked to a lower chance of developing chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease later in life. That may motivate you to pile your plate with greens, but it probably won't sway your teen.

"Each child is different, but most teens are motivated by having more energy for school and sports and looking their best," says David Geller, MD, a pediatrician at Patriot Pediatrics in Bedford, Mass. "I don't concentrate on their appearance so much as suggest healthier foods to get them what they want."

Geller recommends spending less time lecturing and more time modeling behaviors you'd like your teen to emulate, such as eating nutritious meals.

"Adolescents don't always make great choices, but if healthy foods are on their plates, they tend to eat them," says Geller.

Making time for family meals speaks volumes about what you value as a parent. Gathering at the table is about more than eating right. A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association surveyed more than 900 teens and their parents and concluded that family meals are useful for enhancing togetherness and communication.

Move It with Your Teen

Many teens are involved in sports, but plenty still do not get the minimum 60 minutes of daily physical activity that experts recommend.  Physical activity fosters endurance and muscle strength; builds strong bones and joints; and promotes well-being.

Moving around also helps maintain a healthy weight. One study found a lack of vigorous exercise was the primary cause for obesity in children aged 11 to 15.

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