March 7, 2016

Teens: If We Feed Them Well, Why Do They Choose To Eat Junk Food


Teens and Junk Food

For those of you with teens (or tweens), I’m going to assume you’re like me and have fed your family healthy foods most of the time. I’ve seen all the menu planning, Whole30, paleo, low-sugar, and low-fat posts. Even if we ate like crap before we had kids, things changed once the kiddos came along. So now that that’s out-of-the-way, let’s talk about what the teens choose to eat.

For most of us, I’m sure we’ve created over a decade of meals that had fruits and vegetables. There may have been a few monster milkshakes and over-the-top desserts along the way, too. Treats. We always used the word treats. These were anomalies and not the norm.

Same with the carb-a-palooza that seems to become the staple of teen eating. I think back to my teen years, which some days I wonder how I can think back that far, and am pretty sure my mom wondered how I thought cheese pizza and soda was an appropriate meal when out with my friends when she made fresh, from scratch meals nearly every night that were accompanied with a salad and at least one other vegetable (of which corn did not count as a vegetable). What is it that causes our brain to disregard all those meals at home and decide that mac-and-cheese and pretzels would be an a good dinner?

I’ve said ‘no’ to the child who wants a third helping of potatoes while the spinach salad has been disassembled and strategically located around the plate so it looks as if it’s been mostly eaten. I’m sure you have too. I’ve also said no to the request for dessert when just a few bites of dinner are gone, despite sitting at the table for half an hour.

There have been talks about serving sizes, how a 64-oz gas station soda is not a single serving, french fries are not a suitable meal, and carrot cake is not actually a vegetable. I’m sure there have been many discussions about food choices, too, especially when going out. Surely we’ve not only done our job, but we’ve been employee of the month a few times. We’ve excelled at the salad-eating, fruit-over-cake selecting, water-instead-of-soda choosing. And we know that when they eat at their friend’s house that their parents are doing the same thing. We all live in the same village!

So why when they walk out the door and meet up with their other teen friends all this knowledge is inaccessible? How come they can remember every trick to get to level 3,274 on the game they’re playing but not remember to select something more vegetable-y than, well, the garnish that inevitably comes with their carb and dairy bonanza of a meal. Why when they come home we think all these years of after school snacks of fruit and veggies will continue to be their choice but we hear the loud crunching of them eating cereal.

We did the same thing, I know. But that was back in the day when broccoli-rice casserole was an acceptable vegetable and fruit-dotted jell-o was considered a healthy dessert. Healthy back then was different, and, to be honest, we weren’t really outright taught about making healthy food choices.

I know I’m not the only one who wonders why this happens. Is it normal? Do we need to put more emphasis on healthy eating and making “good” food choices? Less emphasis? I don’t know the answer. I just hope that it’s, as a child psychologist friend of mine say, “developmentally appropriate”.

Why Do Teens Like Junk Food


{ 1 comment }

Fadra March 10, 2016 at 11:32 am

I think they choose it because it tastes good and during the teen years your body and metabolism can handle it much better than an adult. I used to “treat” myself to McDonald’s once a week because it was all I could afford. Now, it’s punishment on my body. And remember, teens really feel invincible so they don’t think much about the french fries having a lasting impact. They’ll outgrow it (says the mother of a 9 year old).

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