Your son hit 13 and stopped eating anything healthy. Can you control how he eats?
Having spent four years of high school lunching on Fritos and Tab, I can assure you that, eventually, he’ll wise up. You control the food that’s in your kitchen and that’s all you can do until he outgrows his junk food diet. If you’re worried about nutrition in these growing years, talk to your pediatrician about supplemental vitamins. And don’t nag him. One, it won’t work. Two, it’ll make him want to drive you nuts by eating even more stuff he shouldn’t.
– Ellen Warren
He is old enough to be able to access all the unhealthy food he desires. I would try to appeal to other interests he has: “Girls prefer fit boys.” “Bad food choices may slow you down on the field.” “You will be more alert for your test if you eat well.” I would also involve him in meal planning. What healthy choices might he eat if he packed them in his lunch? What would he eat for breakfast and dinner at home? Perhaps he needs to be exposed to more interesting healthy choices that will appeal to him.
– Dodie Hofstetter
Your child is past the age of depending on you for all of his sustenance, but you still play an important role in determining what he puts in his mouth.
“A common trap parents fall into is to say, ‘My kid turned 13. Now he’s going to do the opposite of everything I do or say,’ ” said Duke University neuroscience professor Scott Swartzwelder, co-author of “What Are They Thinking?! The Straight Facts about the Risk-Taking, Social-Networking, Still-Developing Teen Brain” (Norton). “So they unwittingly back off or become adversarial.”
Calmly model good nutrition habits without turning the topic into yet another point of contention with your budding teenager.
“Make sure the diet you’re eating around the house is good,” Swartzwelder said. “And don’t throw it in your kid’s face: ‘Hey, I’m eating tofu over here and you’re eating another burger.’ Just quietly infiltrate the environment with healthy options and do it in a nonconfrontational way.”
If your son complains about the limited options or refuses to eat them, point out how a healthy diet will benefit his performance in various endeavors. Pick the one nearest and dearest to his heart, since just about every activity is enhanced by a nutrient-rich diet, from athletics to academics to sleep.
“You can quietly enlist the help of a coach or teacher or respected family friend,” said Swartzwelder. “Look for influences on the edges of this kid’s life and leverage those influences. A coach can easily have a side conversation with your son, ‘Look, eating a healthier diet is going to make you a much better player.’ ”
And stick to your guns at the grocery store. Eventually those apples will get eaten.
“If they’re hungry enough, they’re going to eat what’s around,” Swartzwelder said. “Even if it happens to be healthy.”
Have a solution? You want to enrich your toddler’s vocabulary. But what do you talk to him about? Find “The Parent ’Hood” page on Facebook, where you can post your parenting questions and solutions.