Food, Eating and Teens

Food, Eating and Teens

Eating well includes not just what you eat but how you eat. Eating a variety of nutritious foods is important for young people’s growth and development into adulthood and their long-term health.

Can eating well improve a young person’s mental health?

What’s important for young people is to have some structure around meal and snack routines. Opportunities to eat together with family and friends can have a protective effect on a young person’s general mood and mental health. The time to connect over a meal provides social support and a chance to talk.

Eating meals and snacks containing foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats or alternatives, dairy or alternatives, nuts and whole grains provide key nutrients which are beneficial for brain health and may influence mood.

Having enough energy and nutrient rich foods to meet growth and activity levels is important.

How can you help support young people to eat well?

As young people grow their independence they start to make their own choices around food, particularly when outside the home. These things can help you support them and give skills for life:

  • Involve them in planning meals, shopping and cooking together.
  • Make time to eat together as a family. This does not have to be every night.
  • Discuss daily routines and how to plan meals and snacks. This may include organising fresh food snacks in advance like fruit, sandwiches or more nutritious prepacked snack options like pre-prepared salads, muesli bars and trail mix packs. Read more on this topic here
  • Stocking the fridge at home with foods like fruit, vegetables and nutritious snacks that are ready to go like yoghurts.
  • Support young people to plan and prepare food for the whole family sometimes (help them as required). This helps build skills and responsibility for meal choices (food types, cost, time to prepare). This is important if the young person is choosing (for whatever reason) to eat differently than the family for example vegetarian. They need to understand how their choices affect the family and to build the skills they need to feed themselves in the future.
  • Don’t make negative comments about a young person’s food choices or body shape. If you have concerns about your child’s food choices as a young person or body changes approach it with curiosity. There are many sources of influences on a young person choices. It can be helpful to explore this before intervening. Sometimes extra help is needed to help both parents and young people navigate choices around food and eating.

Seek the help you need

To find out more, visit Youth Network of Tasmania for a list of local services and online support.

For resources of body image visit the Butterfly Foundation