Many teens spend a lot of time eating away from home. Here’s going out to restaurants with friends, social events, and school lunches, so it’s easy to worry whether they will make healthy choices when it comes to food. Teaching your teens to be mindful of what they eat when they’re not at home is the big step toward helping them make healthy food choices. Below are four strategies you can use to teach mindful eating to your teens.
Be the example – It’s important to set a good example for your teenagers. If they see you eating fast food or reaching for that extra slice of cake at the party, then they will likely learn to do the same.
Teach portion control – Nowadays, portion sizes are two to three times larger than what they used to be – and what they should be. Sometimes, it’s hard to be mindful of portion sizes, especially when portions are predetermined. Suggest to your teens that they split snacks or restaurant meals with a friend for an appropriate portion size. For example, is that precut slice of lasagna entree actually an individual portion size? Odds are it isn’t.
Send them with healthy foods – Often times, the snacks found at social gatherings and events are junk food loaded with sugar and harmful trans fats (think packaged goodies). Instead of sending your teens to a social event with these prepackaged treats, send them with healthy options such as a vegetable or fruit tray. This can help remind your teens to eat healthy while they are there. Furthermore, if your teens take their own lunch to school, be sure to send them with healthy foods, and if they ever do buy a school lunch, then they’ll have a great idea of what a healthy lunch should look like.
Teach them what a healthy, well-balanced meal looks like – If you don’t teach your teens what a healthy, well-balanced meal looks like, how are they supposed to know? One great tool you can use to teach your teens the appropriate types and amounts of food they need at meals is MyPlate. In addition, provide your teens with concrete examples, as in encourage them to reach for healthy choices such as salads, baked (not fried) wild fish, and fruit when away from home.
Teach your teens how to maintain healthy eating habits outside of their own home by setting an example, teaching portion control, providing them with healthy foods, and teaching them what a healthy, well-balanced meal looks like. As a result, your teens will be mindful eaters when they’re on their own.
Eating Outside of the Home. British Nutrition Foundation. May 2014. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/helpingyoueatwell/outofhome.html?limit=1
Thiessen, Samantha. Healthy Food and Drink Choices Outside the Home. About Kids Health. September 2013. http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/ResourceCentres/Nutrition/Nutrition-for-your-school-aged-child-tween-or-teen/Healthy-food-and-drink-choices-outside-the-home/Pages/default.aspx
Tweed, Katherine. How to Eat Healthy When You Dine Out. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/eating-out-the-healthy-way#1