Be Active in Developing your Teen’s Health Habits

by Melissa Robbins, Volunteer, the Launch Pad Teen Center

By the time your child is a teenager, they likely have established routines and behaviors. This sense of independence can lead parents to believe these habits are already set in stone. However, there’s still plenty that can be done to encourage your teen to live a healthy life.

Research published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Behavior found that adolescents who receive support from friends and family show greater improvements in their diet and physical activity.

This means one of the greatest ways to help your teen build healthy habits is to join them on the journey.

A surefire way to ensure your teen starts their day right, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is making sure they eat a healthy breakfast. Research shows teens who eat breakfast are more focused than peers who don’t, and they even tend to develop better eating habits.

Have available foods high in fiber (like cereals and whole-wheat bread), calcium (like dairy and soy products) and vitamin D (like eggs and vitamin D-fortified products, such as dairy and orange juice).

Not every parent or child has time to eat a complete breakfast, but the pediatrics academy notes a quick breakfast is better than none. So parents, have healthy grab-and-go options such as breakfast bars or fresh fruit handy.

Similarly, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends getting kids into the kitchen when you’re cooking to get them interested in and informed on proper nutrition. Talk with them as you’re cooking about why you’re using this ingredient or that, as well as the nutritional value behind what you’re making.

Besides cooking, the institute also recommends families engage in physical activities together to help encourage children and teens to stay committed to long-term physical health. To keep the whole family engaged, the institute suggests focusing on fun and asking your teen for ideas when deciding the family’s exercise routine.

The National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends making healthy changes slowly and setting a small number of realistic goals. Instead of shooting for daily workouts right away, start with two 30-minute time slots a week to be active with your family, possibly after dinner or on weekends — walking or biking around the neighborhood or playing tag makes a good start.