Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How to Keep Your Teenager Healthy in the New School Year

Guest Post:
When I was a little girl, I ate whatever I wanted. When you're a young child running around at all hours of the day, having a cookie doesn't seem to do a bit of harm. The older you get, however, your body starts changing and caloric intake actually starts to mean something. After I entered my teenager years, my body started changing drastically. I, like many other teenagers, was going through a period of change, and my body was trying to adjust to all those changes. Yet nothing could have prepared me for the 30-pound weight gain that I experienced in the 7th grade.

Looking back, I wish my mother and father would have taken more of an active interest during my hectic body transformation. It took me two years to get my weight back under control, and now that I'm a mother of two teenagers, I watch their health very closely. The beginning of a new school year can provide difficult challenges for those parents who are trying to keep an eye on their teenager's health. With everything from lack of exercise and unhealthy school lunches, your teenager has a number of obstacles to face when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are three tips in helping your teenagers keep their health as their number one priority.

Prepare breakfast and lunch
Though things have improved in the last few years, school lunches still aren't what they should be. I was shocked to go to my son's high-school orientation the other day to find that fried mozzarella sticks and chicken nuggets were the main menu staples. Sadly, schools have a tendency of overlooking the importance of health and nutrition; therefore, it's our jobs as parents to make sure our children are fed healthy, nutritious food. One way to keep an eye on your teenager's health is to prepare their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every morning, make it a priority to prepare healthy breakfast dishes, such as steel-cut oatmeal, fruit salads, high-fiber cereal, egg-white omelettes, and other nutritious breakfast options. Making your child's lunch is also a good idea also, seeing as they'll be choosing between different fried dishes if you don't. In fact, there are a number of great websites and blogs out there that provide delicious, affordable lunch ideas for students. Family dinners are a great way to keep an eye on what everybody is eating as well.

Make health a family priority
When I was growing up, health was something my family hardly ever talked about. I didn't know much about diabetes, nutrition, exercise, and dieting because discussing such matters wasn't a priority in our household. If you want your kid to care about their health, you need to teach them that they should. One of the best ways to educate your child about health and nutrition is to lead by example. If a parent isn't taking care of themselves, it's unlikely their child will either. Start doing little things like working out as a family, eating healthy dinners as a family, and talking about health/body-image issues as a family in order to keep your family's health on track. Just by making a health a family priority, you'll be better able to help your teenager keep their health as a priority.

Encourage your child embrace a regular form of exercise
Let's face it: many of us don't get the necessary exercise we should each day. As a working mother, I hardly have any time to move around. One thing I'm quite adamant about, however, is that each of my family members gets at least one hour of exercise each day. This can be as simple as walking outside for an hour or going to soccer practice for an hour. Though many parents choose to overlook exercise, it's absolutely unacceptable if your child sits on his or her butt in school all day. One way to get them up and moving is to sign them up for school sports or exercise classes. As long as you require that your teenager embrace some form of daily exercise, they should be on their way to being healthier.

I know how hard it can be to raise your teenager to care about health and nutrition. As a child, I could have cared less about what I ate, and I gained an unnecessary about of weight because of that apathetic nature. If you're trying to raise a healthy teenager in the new school year, utilize these three helpful healthy tips.

Special Guest Contributor:
Leslie Johnson is an avid health and nutrition blogger or mastersinhealthcare.com. As the mother of two teenagers, she is particularly passionate about teaching children about nutrition, health, body image, and exercise. If you have any questions for Leslie, feel free to leave them here.

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