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Teenagers - help with healthy eating

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  • Teenagers - help with healthy eating

    I'm wondering if anyone on here has teenagers? My two stepchildren, ages 12 and 16, just moved in with us last year. Without going into too much detail, I can say that it has been challenging for many reasons. Regarding food, my husband and I have raised our daughter, who is 3, to eat primarily natural/local/organic foods, and this is also how he and I have eaten since she was born. My stepchildren grew up in a very different environment. We were afraid that just throwing them into our lifestyle would be too harsh, so we tried to make sure they had what we would consider foods that are not healthy, as special treats, from time to time. But it never seems to be enough for them. They've been sneaking food into the house from friends', or getting lunch at school even though they pack food from here. We feel like we can't win, because when we try to feed them the food we believe is healthy for them, they rebel. But we aren't willing to change our lifestyle (and that of our daughter, who has never eaten the way they used to) and compromise our beliefs just to ensure that they have the food they want all of the time.

    Help!

  • #2
    I don't have any words of advice for you, I'm sorry! Excpet to say that i think it sounds like you are giving the situation a lot of thought and consideration, and are being very respectful. I don't know what I'd do in your situation, probably not much different! I was remembering back to when i was your step kids' age, and I think if my family would have changed our diet...like in a big way, from which I had been accustomed to my whole life...I would have found ways to eat the food I liked. At school, I would have eaten what I wanted, the things i wasn't getting at home. Even if they were junky, I wouldn't have cared. But i feel for you, i do! I understand your efforts and support them. I just wish I had some practical parenting experience with this. Hang in there!
    Last edited by Kelly; 04-14-2010, 12:08 AM. Reason: LOTS of typos, I'm sorry!

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    • #3
      Thank you Kelly. Just having you respond with your kind words helps me at least feel supported!

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      • #4
        Personally...

        That does sound frustrating. What I would do is:
        ~ Continue to provide healthy food for everybody in the house.
        ~ Give the kids input in terms of their favorite healthy foods. For instance, buy fruits and vegetables that they like to keep for snacks and serve with dinner.
        ~ Tell them that they are in control of their own bodies and have the right to eat whatever they like as long as they buy it themselves and keep it away from your daughter.
        ~ Watch shows like Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution with them and discuss how healthy foods help them. For instance, eating and drinking foods with high fructose corn syrup has now been proven to lead to a pot belly. Most teenagers don't want that! And artificial sweeteners lead to overeating and weight gain, another negative to most teenagers.
        ~ See if you can get them involved in cooking or gardening.
        ~ Be patient.

        I think as long as you stock the house with tasty, healthy food, they'll eventually choose to eat it because it's there and it's free. Don't make it a power struggle or they'll just rebel more.

        Good luck!
        ~Alicia

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        • #5
          Thank you Alicia! The power struggle issue is probably the biggest issue we have. Just this morning I came downstairs and discovered my 16-year-old stepson pouring huge amounts of sugar into his cereal. He jumped sky-high when I said, "Good morning!", because he knew he wasn't supposed to be doing that. When I asked what he was doing, he said, "Making this cereal taste better". Sigh. It's frustrating. What do I do, hide the sugar? That's probably not the right answer. Should I really have to get up at 6 a.m. to beat him downstairs and keep my eye on him while he's preparing breakfast? Oh, and just yesterday, he packed his lunch when no one was looking, and when I peeked in his bag, I discovered three butter sandwiches. Yep, that's right. Just loads of butter on bread, three times worth. Another sigh.

          I don't know what to do. We can't just let him live off of butter and sugar. Should I let him buy his own bag of sugar and put it into that "his choice" category? And then my 12-year-old stepdaughter sees it and wants to do exactly what he does, if we let him do it. Which is frustrating because she seems to be actually coming around a bit to the benefits of healthy eating (probably because she's younger and is more impressionable it seems). Urg.

          Anyway, thank you for the suggestions. We've done most of them but they bear repeating (especially the Be Patient one!), if only just to show us that we are making efforts by trying all of these, and to not give up hope!

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          • #6
            Hi dancingmyrtle!

            Sounds like there hasn't been a lot of feeling of personal power for these kids. That's too bad. So they try to 'win' wherever they can, even if it's bad for them. That's where I'd start. If it's not the food, seems to me, it will be something else. I wonder if there's a way to dig down into the real issue. I like to think there is, but don't have suggestions other than possibly family therapy. Of course, as a homeschooler, I'm all for that, but that would mean a pretty big shift in your lifestyles and I don't know if that's do-able for you right now.

            In the short-term, if you buy only Ezekiel bread and just allow the butter, that's practically a full meal right there. I wonder if they have favourite fruits. They obviously love carbs. So maybe there's another angle. Might be a compromise. But I really see it as a power issue.

            My kids are 13 and 16. They tend to go for high-carb foods. We keep lots on hand: dried apricots, nuts (even if roasted and salted), oranges, bananas, apples, OJ, peanut butter, raw honey, whole grain cereals, pure maple syrup ... We sometimes get frozen waffles with flax,... They both love tofu fried with Bragg's Liquid Aminos. My 16yo needs lots of protien and sometimes I just can't cook for him, so we keep lots of ingredients on hand so he can throw together a sandwich. And yes, sometimes it means breaking down and buying meats I don't approve of, but if he gets a sugar crash, it's ugly. Sometimes the emotional needs have to outweigh the nutritional needs. Mostly we get free-range, at least, though. Hope those ideas help!

            I feel for ya... for what that's worth!

            HM
            Last edited by HomeschoolingMama; 09-03-2010, 12:09 PM.

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            • #7
              So I'm going to try to look at this from the kids' perspective a little... I moved in with my dad and stepmom when I was 15, and they changed all the rules on me. It was a good thing, but it was really, really hard on me. You're not just changing everything for them, you are, in essence, telling them that how they were raised was wrong. The harder you push it, the more they are going to dig their heels in, because it's more of an attack on them personally (not that that's how you mean it).

              If I were you, I would follow the suggestions from A_Magical_Childhood, but remember that they are not little kids, and they are going to have to take responsibility for their own eating. If they want to pour sugar on their cereal, well, bite your tongue. Ask them, if need be, not to do that in front of your daughter, but don't try to make them into health nuts overnight. They will gradually get used to healthy food, and the butter sandwiches won't kill them, really, there are worse things they could be eating for lunch.

              They are at the age where the best you can do is show them a better way to eat. No amount of forcing healthy food down their throats or packing their lunches for them is going to make them eat healthily in the long term, it is up to them. So try to make healthy stuff they like, offer to teach them to cook healthy stuff themselves so it is an empowering thing, and keep lots of healthy options around for them, just try to keep it a very positive thing. You can stop this from being a control issue if you don't try to control their eating.

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              • #8
                Are things going better with the kids now that some time has passed? If you haven't already, I'd suggest taking the kids grocery shopping with you. Choose foods together - when they want a junk food snack, try finding a "better" version of it - one you can live with them eating, and one they will enjoy. I have a 12 year old and raising them from birth doesn't make it a whole lot easier, I promise. LOL. Teens seem to want junk food night and day, period.

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