As your middle schooler grows and develops, you may notice they start to eat a lot more. Their body is growing and additional food fuels this growth spurt.
However, you may also notice that their eating habits start to shift. Perhaps they begin to shy away from fruits and veggies in favor of more sugar-filled, packaged foods. Whether your middle schooler is mirroring the food habits of classmates or simply wants to spend their allowance on junk food, you may start to feel like the food values you worked hard to instill during childhood have flown out the window. But there are steps you can take to help guide your pre-teen towards healthy eating habits.
Be their healthy eating role model.
The best way to reinforce your middle schooler’s healthy eating habits is to show them that healthy eating is important to you. There are many ways to do this. Eat breakfast each morning and choose the healthier option when out at a restaurant. Bring your middle schooler along on weekly grocery trips.
Most importantly, make time to enjoy healthy meals with each other as a family. This is one of the best and easiest ways to, not only model healthy habits but to also increase your child’s overall enjoyment of food. Bonus: You get to spend quality time together as a family, catching up on the events of the day.
Create an environment that encourages healthy eating.
It is much easier for your middle schooler to make good food choices if your family’s home encourages healthy eating.
So, how can you do this?
- Ask your middle schooler to assist with the food shopping and weekly menu planning.
- Motivate them to take ownership of one family meal each week — from planning to serving!
- Limit the unhealthy options available in the house and make healthy options easily accessible. For example, keep fresh fruit out on the counter, chopped vegetables in the fridge, and plenty of healthy snacks in the cupboard.
- Cook with them. You can teach them how to make their favorite dishes right at home or enroll them in a cooking class. There are a variety of great cooking classes available right here in the Phoenix area —
- Check out Sweet Basil Cooking School, Sur la Table, and Whisked Away.
Initiate a food dialogue.
The way you talk to your pre-teen about food can have a big impact on their eating habits. Try highlighting the positive effects of healthy eating, rather than speaking to the negative impacts inherent in an unhealthy diet.
Here are some ideas to get you started –
- As motivation for healthy eating, talk to your middle schooler about how food directly impacts concentration, success in school, athletic ability, and mental wellbeing. Pre-teens and teenagers can have trouble conceptualizing the long-term health risks of unhealthy eating. However, knowing the impact these choices can have on their present lives may prove more meaningful.
- Encourage your middle schooler to eat when they’re hungry (remember: growth spurts) but to stop when they’re full. Over time, your middle schooler will begin to recognize the difference between eating out of hunger and eating from boredom or fatigue.
- Steer clear of restricting foods or labeling them as “good” and “bad.” Alternatively, try to aim for a balance. Eat healthy foods the majority of the time and have a treat every now and again.
If you need help with your middle schooler’s nutrition or you’re concerned about their eating habits, the staff at Doorways is here to help. If you are interested in how our services may benefit your family in the Phoenix metro area, give us a call today.