We all know the importance of good nutrition. As parents, we know how important it is to provide our children and teens with a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Reality might be a bit different. Children and teens are not always the best at following the guidance of their parents, particularly if it comes to vegetables they may not enjoy. You may have difficulty getting your teen to take regular showers and do his laundry, let alone eating a balanced diet.
Getting him to help plan and eat a healthy meal may seem like an impossibility. It may be more of a challenge to get your teen’s cooperation in some situations. However, encouraging him to get more involved with activities like meal planning and cooking, mainly if it incorporates some of his favorites, can start that spark you need to get him involved. Use our tips to plan healthy meals with teens:
7 ways to plan healthy meals with your teen
You know how important meal planning can be for a variety of reasons. Whether you’re working within a strict budget, keeping track of calories or carbs, or simply making your workweek easier, meal planning is an important skill for anyone to learn.
Sit down with your teen to plan out one or two meals, or if that’s too much, have him help plan parts of meals as he works up to planning entire meals. If he shows interest in planning out a whole week of meals with you, you should encourage that enthusiasm.
1. Go through local store circulars to see what might be on sale.
If your teen is interested, you may also want to have him help you find coupons and other deals through coupon and savings apps. Saving money can be something fun and, of course, is a valuable life skill.
2. Use sales and deals to get meal ideas.
For example, if chicken and tomatoes are on sale, you could develop several meal ideas that incorporate chicken and tomatoes. Stuffed chicken breasts or chicken enchiladas are just two ideas.
3. Browse recipe sites or Pinterest to get more ideas.
The internet is full of easy-to-prepare meals that the whole family will appreciate. Your teen may find it easier to plan healthy meals if he can see images of what others have made.
4. Write down ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Include snack options that your teen and other family members may enjoy. You may want to start a family recipe notebook that your teen can add their favorites to.
5. Keep things simple, nutritious, and enjoyable.
You want to make the meals easy and approachable, this will help to keep your teen engaged. Even if breakfast is yogurt and granola, the important thing is that he’s involved in the decision-making. Over-complicating things, at least initially, can potentially turn your teen away from the idea of meal planning. As his confidence and interest grow, so can your experiments with new recipes and cuisines.
6. Have your teen do the grocery shopping with you.
Whether you’re going into the grocery store armed with a list or you’re ordering online for pickup or delivery, being a part of this process can be good for him as he learns more about what it takes to feed himself and the family.
7. If your teen shows more interest, consider taking a family cooking class.
There are in-person options and online options that can cover a range of techniques and cuisines. Perhaps he’s interested in learning more about baking bread? Or maybe his interests trend more towards pasta dishes and even making pasta? Several options are sure to interest him and keep his momentum going.
If your teen loses interest or starts to disagree with you, try to avoid falling into the trap of forcing him or getting angry. It will be frustrating for you, but you can quickly discourage his involvement if you have the wrong approach to his hesitation or reluctance.
It could also be that your teen is interested in taking a more freestyle approach to cooking. He may pick up a few ideas from browsing YouTube or Pinterest and want to try his hand with something entirely new. Don’t discourage this interest and drive. It’s wonderful when a teen can engage and participate, particularly when it comes to things like planning and preparing healthy meals.
The connection between nutrition and mental wellness
If our bodies feel unwell and sluggish, it can take a toll on how we feel mentally and emotionally. With this in mind, you can make a connection between some of the mental health concerns that your teen may be struggling with.
Certainly, anxiety and depression can’t be attributed directly to a teen not eating vegetables. However, if your teen is getting the right type of mental wellness support for his anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles, nutrition can be a supportive tool.
Supporting his physical health will help your teen as he begins to find his way out of the struggles he’s been faced with. Healthy breakfasts to start his day on the right note, a hearty lunch to keep him going through his day, and a healthy family meal to end the day on the right note.
In addition, working with you and his siblings to plan meals and prepare them can help your teen feel better connected with the family. Chopping vegetables and learning how to prepare meals can be a great time for casual conversations.
If you find that he tends to be quiet while preparing meals, just give it a bit of time. Ask a few questions about his day or about what he thinks about a meal idea for the next day. Teens can be reluctant to open up until they feel completely at ease. It could just be that this time in the kitchen is what he needs to find a new comfortable space to communicate with you.