It’s 3pm- do you know where your children are- and what they are eating?

As summer begins, and the structure of school fades fast, our teenagers will be free to hang with friends and have some freedom. Of course, in this day and age, we all need to know where our kids are at all times for their safety, but we realize the importance of giving our older kids some freedom, some time to make decisions on their own as they approach adulthood. However, an alarming trend has caught my eye, and it is making me question whether teens – even the most grown-up of teens-can be trusted to make good decisions when it comes their nutrition. I have had a chance to work with several teens over the last few weeks, some of whom are looking to lose weight. I was shocked at the amount of junk food these young people are eating. My son, when left to his own devices, is the same way- he will choose total sugar and junk food over anything healthy. I must force him to make better choices, and obviously only have control over this when he is with me.
SO- What is a parent to do? Control all of their food intake? Allow no junk food at all in the house? Follow them around all day and check what they are eating?
I do not have all the answers, but one part of it begins with parents instilling good eating habits when the children are young. You and your children should TRY and eat dinner together as much as possible. At least, for this one meal, they will eat healthy food as long as YOU put it on the table. If teens are allowed to fend for themselves, they will gravitate towards high fat, high sugar foods like french fries, chicken nuggets and soda. Once teen client of mine eats no vegetables or fruits whatsoever. No dairy, no yogurt, no wheat breads. She is 5″2, 50 pounds overweight and in daily pain because her knees and ankles can’t handle the weight. She was allowed to eat what she wants when she wants, with no good role models. SO-If YOU are a junk food addict- YOUR children will be the same. And, rest asssured, they will grow up to be ill and obese.
I also suggest that you ASK your children what they have eaten at their friend’s homes, at school, after school, or whether they stopped at the local store for a snack. Monitor their nutrition without judging them- but do not allow treats or high fat foods later in the day if they have had those foods at school or with their friends. And don’t forget about drinks- whether it is a soda or a gatorade- these empty calories can make a child overweight AND hurt their teeth.
Finally, limit the junk food you bring into the house. It is not necessary, nor healthy, for the kids to have junk food on a daily basis. Switch things up on them by buying fruit popsicles, lowfat yogurt ice cream, or -God forbid!- baked potato chips.
Times have changed. Junk food is available 24 hours a day- at school- while driving-at home. Unless we get a handle on what our kids are eating now, they will become part of a tragic majority in this nation- the obese. Not what we may have dreamed they can become….

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