Every parent wants their teenager to be healthy, but kids of all ages often insist on eating junk food. You can help your teenager eat well, though, by following a few simple suggestions.

Control and Compromise

When children reach their teenage years, they want control. They think they’re adults, and they want to make sure everyone knows it. Trying to enforce many rules may make them rebel, but giving them too much freedom can be dangerous. You can keep some control without upsetting your teenager if you plan ahead and pick your battles. These tips will help:

1. Know when to give in. Your teenager needs some independence, and he has to win some of the battles. When you “win” in one area by not giving in, allow your teenager to win on some other point. For example, a chicken salad instead of a burger, but fries can be a side dish.

2. Practice the art of negotiation. Laying down the law only goes so far. If you talk to your teenager and show that you respect him and his feelings, you’ll likely get much farther with your concerns. To make it fair and enjoyable, be open and honest with your discussion about healthy habits and choices.

3. Be willing to compromise. Compromising goes hand in hand with negotiation. If you and your teenager voice your concerns but you don’t change anything based on that, you haven’t gained from the exchange of opinions. When you compromise, everyone feels as though he’s won something, and that makes cooperation in the future easier.

Remember, You’re Still the Parent 

4. Do your research. If you don’t know what’s really healthy and what isn’t, you can’t make the best choices for your teenager. While it’s important to compromise and allow for some flexibility, you must ultimately make your own decisions as to what is best for the younger members of your family. Pull rank when you have to – but only if you can back up your facts.

5. Recognize the importance of peer pressure. A lot of teenagers do what their friends do. If it’s “uncool” to eat healthy, it’s going to be more of a struggle to get your kid to do it. If you can motivate his peer group toward eating healthy in a way that they can all appreciate, you’ll have a winning situation on your hands. Plus, you’ll be helping more than just your own teenager.

There are all kinds of ways to get your teenager to appreciate the value of healthy eating. However, throwing facts and figures at them isn’t usually one of those ways. Rather than focus on things that they won’t care about, use information that appeals to them.

If they know that drinking a lot of water will help clear up their skin and that fruits and vegetables will keep them from gaining too much weight, they’ll be more interested. They want to look good for the opposite sex, and they want to fit in with their friends.

Tying healthy eating into the things that matter to your teenager can help you help them make better choices. Open and honest communication is the best choice for getting your teenager to eat healthy, and is also good for developing habits that will stick with your child for a lifetime.