In the recent weeks I have highlighted some different issues at different life stages. I started with infancy and moved to the toddler and preschool years. Recently, I wrote about how to handle sugar related with the school age child since that is the age where they have greater food influences away from home. Now is time to move on to the teenage years. I have recently heard of adolescent and teenage years referred to as a re- birth because it the most rapid time of growth (both physically and emotionally) outside of infancy, therefore nutrition is very important.
I am in the pre-teen years at my house and as I ponder the arrival of the teenage years I decided the best way to express my nutrition concerns for those years is as an open letter to my children.
To my boys,
I am writing to let you know what my wishes are for you about how you see food and your body as you enter your teenage years .
My first wish for you is that you not skip meals. I realize that as a teenager you are going to need more sleep and you may want to sleep rather than eat breakfast, but be certain that as long as you are under my roof someone (either your father or I) will offer you breakfast. I promise to have smoothies, breakfast sandwiches or burritos, trail mix, muffins, and grab and go fruits at the ready. However, do not think I will be making all your breakfasts for you. It is my goal that by the time you graduate from high school you will know how to make all of these items and be able to teach all of your college roommates how to do it. The reason I wish a daily breakfast upon you is that I want you to learn how to regulate your appetite (not skip meals and then eat a few large meals late in the day) and I want you to be able to concentrate at school so you can feel like you are doing your best.
My second wish for you is that you fully learn proper knife skills to be able to make your own fruit and veggie snack plate. The reason many families do not use up produce is because people do not take the time to cut it. Some even admit that they do not know how to cut and serve some fruits and vegetables. I hope that by teaching you this I will not walk into your apartment someday and find the smell of rotten fruits and vegetables that have never been eaten. I promise that I will do my part to keep fruits and vegetables at the ready and have the appropriate knives and cutting boards for you as well.
My third wish for you is that you do not classify foods as “good” or “bad”. Always have a healthy relationship with food and how it relates to your body. I hope I have taught you what your diet should consist of a majority of the time, but I also hope you know that if the local ice cream shop is having a monthly special on your favorite flavor that it is ok to have a scoop when you are hungry and not feel like you have to run 5 miles to “work it off.” Food is not meant to be evil it is meant to nourish you.
My fourth wish for you is that you are never ashamed or upset about how your body looks. Every teenager develops and grows at a different rate. Some may be 6 feet tall at 14 and others may not reach full height until after high school. You are unique and there is no one else like you. I never want you to feel less than someone else because of your size, whatever, it may be. If you accept your body for what it is I believe you will nourish it to be great. At this time of life your body change is natural and everyone your age is going through it, but maybe at a different speed.
My final wish is that I never want to fight about food in your teenage years (or any other time). Let’s make a deal. I will purchase the food that I believe is the best for your growing body and you will decide what to eat and how much to eat. I only ask that you utilize some of the cooking skills you have been taught to help. I know we will likely have many disagreements in the teenage years, but let us not have food as one of those disagreements.
Please know that any suggestion I make about food comes from a place of love. I believe that food is part of being healthy in the body, mind, and spirit. I desire for you to be healthy in all those areas of life.
Healthy Breakfasts for teens:
A link to a video that talks about knife skills: