A better understanding
Adolescence is a period during which children are establishing their independence, and their eating habits can be positively or negatively influenced by the people around them (their friends, for example) and by their living environments. As a parent, you can help your teen understand how making good food choices is important for their health, as well as their physical and mental well-being. You can talk about the long-term negative consequences of eating too many foods that are high in sugar, fat or salt, such as developing certain chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes).
During adolescence, teens should be encouraged to develop their food skills. These skills include being able to read and interpret information on food labels, knowing how to safely prepare and store foods, evaluating the texture or flavour of a food, making a grocery list, planning and preparing a nutritious meal, using the right equipment and substituting ingredients in a recipe.
Eating habits of teens living in the Montérégie region
- Excluding fruit juices, less than one third of teens (28%) eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables per day.
- More than one student in ten doesn’t eat breakfast on school days (i.e., they have nothing to eat or drink before their classes). For both boys and girls, this proportion increases for higher grades.
- Nearly half of boys eat junk food for lunch (47%). This proportion is slightly lower for girls (39 %).
- A healthy diet should include a variety of foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole-grain foods, protein-rich foods (preferably plant-based) and unprocessed foods.
- Educate your teen about the importance of eating a variety of nutritious foods at every meal, including breakfast.
- Explain that some foods, such as sugary drinks and fast food, are not very nutritious and contain large amounts of fat, sugar and salt.
- Remind them that they should only enjoy these highly processed foods and beverages occasionally, not every day.
- Emphasize the benefits of healthy eating and avoid focusing on the amount of food they eat or their physical appearance.
- Avoid labeling foods as good or bad and imposing excessively strict food restrictions, which can lead to unhealthy eating behaviours such as eating too many “forbidden” foods.
- Encourage your teen to understand and be aware of their hunger and fullness cues.
- If your teen has persistent concerns about some foods or their weight, or if they adopt any unhealthy eating behaviours, try to talk about it with them to get a better understanding about their concerns and don’t hesitate to contact a health professional (e.g., family doctor, nutritionist, etc.).
- As a parent, it’s important to be aware of how your behaviours influence your teen’s behaviours. It’s important that your behaviours are consistent with what you’re telling them.
- Have some fun introducing them to new foods and recipes.
- Be open to your teen’s food preferences and talk with them about their preferences.
- Help your teen find solutions adapted to their reality.
- Encourage them to notice food marketing techniques, in particular in stores and on social networks, and ask them to think about how the advertising is affecting what foods they choose to buy.
Create a healthy home environment
- Offer a variety of healthy foods and limit availability of highly processed foods that are often very high in fat, salt and/or sugar.
- Make water the number one choice for hydration at home and during family outings.
- Regularly involve your teen in meal planning and prep, choosing recipes and going grocery shopping.
- At mealtimes, eat together as a family in a pleasant atmosphere without screens.
- Take advantage of family meals to discuss various food topics such as where the food comes from, the environmental impact of our food choices and the ethical considerations of certain cultures.
- To encourage drinking water:
- Reduce the availability of sugary drinks at home.
- Make water or sparkling water the beverage choice during meals.
- Flavour water with fruits or fresh herbs.
- Purchase a beautiful water pitcher for your family meals.
- Here are a few ideas for healthy snacks that can be prepared in advance: raw vegetables, dips (ideally made with yogurt or hummus), fruits, roasted nuts, yogurt, granola mixes, rice cakes or crackers, nut butters, cottage cheese and dried fruits. For more ideas, see this page of Radio-Canada’s website Mordu.
When your child becomes a teenager, as a parent, you should focus on actions that will help them make nutritious food choices every day, develop a healthy relationship with food and learn food skills.
By introducing them to a variety of healthy foods, limiting highly processed foods and by taking the time to eat together and share some good times around the table, the whole family will benefit!
Practical resources and tools
1. If you need support:
2. For more information:
See the page in Canada’s food guide specific to teenagers
Eating and body image:
- See the website of the organization Équilibre: https://equilibre.ca
Fruits and vegetables:
- See the website I love fruits and veggies movement for more information about portion sizes and to get recipe ideas.
- See what Canada’s food guide recommends
Hunger and fullness cues:
- See this page of Canada’s food guide
- See this article written by the organization Équilibre for more advice on this topic.
- See this page of Canada’s food guide.
For recipes that are easy to make with your teen, see the section Mordu of Radio Canada’s website
- Article published in La Presse “Vivre avec un ado Végé”
- Article from Dietitians of Canada “Planification des repas de l’adolescent végétarien”
- For vegetarian recipe ideas, see this free e-book: “Viens manger – Le végétarisme en toute simplicité”
Latest update: April 2022