When I was a teenager, there was a summer when I survived on Oreo cookies, Carnation Instant Breakfast and the occasional Dairy Queen Blizzard. Today, I have a teen of my own who has to fend for himself most days during the summer. Like most parents, I'm not a nutritionist, but I know better than to let him con me into filling the house with junk food. What's harder is finding easy, healthy food that he'll take the time to fix and won't be bored of after a week or two.
When I was a teenager, there was a summer when I survived on Oreo cookies, Carnation Instant Breakfast and the occasional Dairy Queen Blizzard.
I was spending the summer with my dad, who was remodeling his kitchen. All we had was a refrigerator and small microwave. Dishes had to be washed in the bathtub so, needless to say, I avoided all dishes.
Today, I have a teen of my own who has to fend for himself most days during the summer. Like most parents, I'm not a nutritionist, but I know better than to let him con me into filling the house with junk food.
What's harder is finding easy, healthy food that he'll take the time to fix and won't be bored of after a week or two. PB&J five days a week? Even his tastebuds want more.
And fast food lunches aren't the answer. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.,-based consumer group, recently announced its 2009 Xtreme Eating Awards for nutritional train wrecks. Chili's Big Mouth Bites, four mini bacon cheeseburgers served with fries, packs 2,350 calories, 38 grams of saturated fat and a whopping 3,940 milligrams of sodium onto one plate. And, believe it or not, that wasn't the worst.
According to the group, The Cheesecake Factory's Chicken and Biscuits has more calories than eating a KFC 8-piece bucket of original recipe chicken plus five biscuits.
Still, healthy eating can be easy - something even a lazy teenager can handle - with a little thought and preparation on your part.
If your teen will eat fruits and vegetables, fill the fridge.
"Try to keep a lot of them on hand - no-peel carrots, apples, oranges, whatever your child will eat," says Margaret Cover, nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois' Extention food nutrition program. "If you don't have junk food there, they're going to have to eat something else. My son, to this day, will grab a bowl of cereal - that's a healthy snack."
Of course, Cover never bought sugary cereals, soda or junk food so her children grew up liking fresh fruits and veggies.
If your teen is a little leery of fruits and veggies, make it easy by starting with their favorites and slowly introducing new ones. Keep bowls of washed, cut up celery and carrots, grapes and melon so access is as easy as opening the refrigerator. Yogurt is another good snack, but Cover suggests buying plain yogurt and adding your own fresh fruit.
"If you have to keep chips, get the individual packages and maybe hide some," Cover adds. "Kids, and adults, aren't great about portion control. If you get a big bag of chips, they'll eat the whole bag."
Ask your teen to help menu plan with you. Let them think of creative, healthy lunches. Personally, my son loves to make his own smoothies. With fresh fruit and juices, soy milk and protein powder, I know he's getting a healthy, filling snack.
Me? I'm still trying to wean myself off the Oreos.
Jennifer Davis can be reached at (309) 686-3249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.