Cur­ing teens of junk food hunger

Kapi-Mana News - - YOUR HEALTH -

New Zealand’s favourite well­be­ing ex­pert an­swers read­ers’ ques­tions about their health and well­be­ing. My teen seems to be con­sum­ing a lot of junk food. I don’t buy it but I no­tice the wrap­pers in the car. How­can I stop this from hap­pen­ing? We eat well as a fam­ily but I feel like they have de­vel­oped th­ese habits at school. Thank you, Su­san.

Hi Su­san. In the world where we are sur­rounded by food ad­ver­tise­ments, it’s no won­der that many chil­dren/teenagers are at­tracted to th­ese types of foods. From a taste per­spec­tive there’s no doubt that fat, sugar and salt taste ‘good’ and th­ese are typ­i­cally plen­ti­ful in pro­cessed foods. Hav­ing a dis­cus­sion about the im­por­tance of ‘real food’ with your teenager is cer­tainly more nec­es­sary now than in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions.

De­pend­ing on what mo­ti­vates them – it can be ben­e­fi­cial to dis­cuss the con­cept of nour­ish­ing your body, your ve­hi­cle for life – and us­ing our food/or nutri­tion to do so. If they’re in­ter­ested, dis­cussing that vi­ta­mins and min­er­als ac­tu­ally keep us alive and th­ese are found in ‘real food’ – fruits, veg­eta­bles, nuts, seeds etc can be help­ful. Also bring­ing aware­ness to con­sump­tion of foods is key – as typ­i­cally peo­ple con­sume food with lit­tle aware­ness as to how th­ese foods ac­tu­ally make them feel.

Ask your teen to no­tice this. Does he/she feel fu­elled af­ter con­sum­ing food ‘xyz’ ver­sus when they con­sume a real food snack such as a piece of fruit, or a hand­ful of raw nuts. And does he/ she feel like they are eat­ing th­ese foods be­cause they’re read­ily avail­able and ac­ces­si­ble? Are they eat­ing th­ese foods for hunger or be­cause they’re bored, sad, frus­trated, tired?

If you can un­der­stand their mo­ti­va­tion to eat poor qual­ity food you are more likely to be able to find a so­lu­tion. In con­sul­ta­tions, I would al­ways ask the teen what they care about and link good qual­ity food choices to the out­comes they seek.

While I don’t be­lieve you should ‘ban’ your teen from hav­ing poor qual­ity food, (typ­i­cally this just makes it more ap­peal­ing and more likely that your child will overindulge when he/she is around th­ese foods at a friend’s house, a birth­day party or school for ex­am­ple). The ul­ti­mate goal is to get them to the point where they don’t want to choose th­ese foods in the first place – or they no­tice that if they con­sume them reg­u­larly that they don’t feel fan­tas­tic.

Pro­vid­ing healthy snack al­ter­na­tives is key. Of­ten it is snack foods that let peo­ple down, as th­ese are the most con­ve­nient to buy not so nour­ish­ing op­tions. Most of this is avail­abil­ity and ac­cess. So work with them to pro­vide healthy snacks. Get them in­volved in pre­par­ing a batch of bliss balls for the fam­ily, or bak­ing some roast veg­etable frit­tatas etc. Most of all be pa­tient, per­sis­tent and kind, the habits that are es­tab­lished now mat­ter both to to­day and their fu­ture. I would like to in­cor­po­rate at least one more serv­ing of veg­eta­bles daily. Do you have any sug­ges­tions for howI can do this with­out re­ally notic­ing it! Thanks, Char­lotte.

Hi Char­lotte – You can al­ways eat more veg­eta­bles. In the rush of life, a few days can slip by where we might not have con­sumed enough veg­eta­bles.

Es­tab­lish some reg­u­lar habits such as drink­ing a veg­etable juice or green smoothie, adding a salad to your lunch, or order­ing a side of veg­eta­bles when din­ing out. Or when you’re at home pre­pare veg­eta­bles and a salad, grate veg­eta­bles into your main dishes or take raw veg­etable sticks with a home­made pesto or hum­mus as a snack. With habits like this, you’re able to amp up your veg­etable in­take while still jug­gling the many aspects of life.

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