Now THAT’S a challenge isn’t it?!?!
If this is a goal of yours let me make a few suggestions…
1. The first is to show them “what’s in it for me.” (meaning, them).
Let your son know that he’ll be able to get leaner, develop a six pack, or play his sport better. If it’s your daughter, be careful with body image/expectations. Focus instead on better energy, clearer skin, and MAYBE you can slip in something about staying (NOT getting) lean. Just a slight change of wording and the impact is totally different isn’t it?
2. Focus on what TO do, rather than what NOT to do.
…In my own case, my daughter Ashleigh (a few years ago, when she was age 15) had a hellacious schedule, including Olympic weightlifting and track, a full class schedule, church, friends, and so on. She was up at 5 every morning, and typically she was running nonstop till 11 at night, almost seven days a week. Then she ended up with a fever and missed her first day of school that year. I told her that with the schedule she kept, she’d need to get better nutrition in order to handle it all. My request (which I asked her to consider and ultimately agree to) was simply to eat 2 apples and one glass of Carb Countdown every day, and after that, she could eat whatever she wanted. This way, at the very least, she was getting some fiber, some antioxidants, and some good quality protein every day.
3. Encourage only slight changes.
Notice that in the example I just presented, my suggestion was doable, simple, and easy to remember. It involves nothing in the way of cooking or preparation, and I knew beforehand that she likes apples and Carb Countdown. So no excuses. Remember that when a kid is eating terribly, even slight improvements will yield a significant result!
4. Actions speak louder than words.
Parents, you need to walk the walk. If your child sees that YOUR nutrition is terrible, there’s no way she’ll change her nutritional habits. So if you want your child to eat better, maybe use this as an opportunity to clean up your own house, so to speak!
5. Give them an external reward.
In some cases, you may need to provide an artificial stimulus, at least temporarily, until the intrinsic benefits of eating better kick in. This might be anything from earning “points” that can be converted into a trip to the mall, to cold hard cash. The key is to know what will motivate your child. Some people will disagree with this suggestion, citing that, in “the real world,” you’ve gotta do these things anyway and no one is going to reward you for it, but in my mind, your teen isn’t in the real world quite yet, and if it takes a bit of artificial compensation to get the habit pattern initiated, so be it.
I hope these suggestions are helpful for you. If you’d like to add your own input and/or success stories, feel free to add your comments below!