Helping our kids-and ourselves-eat healthily

By Jane Sylvestre, RD - 3/17/2016

Healthy Habits Start Young

I always like to write my blogs about whatever is my focus in my own life at the time.  Right now, it is my teenage son’s eating habits.  As you can image, as a dietitian, I have put much effort into providing healthy meals and foods for my family.  I try to keep only healthy food readily available to them, make balanced meals nightly and be a good role model.  The older my children are getting, the more challenging this is becoming.  Eating at regular times has been a challenge with all their extracurricular activities.  They are out on their own more with their friends and making their own food choices.  They are even preparing their own foods at home sometimes.  My kids are now 13 and 15 years old.  Yikes- I never thought my teenager’s diet would be one of my parenting challenges.

The biggest problem I see is the changes in my son’s eating schedule.  He now picks at his breakfast because I am dragging him out of bed.  In the past, breakfast was always his best meal.  Who knows what he chooses at school for lunch, he doesn’t tell me a whole lot.  He does eat his dinner, but I am noticing he goes less and less for the vegetables.  I always have to remind him to eat the vegetables.   I hear noise in the kitchen around 9:30 at night,  when he is supposed to be in bed,  making himself a couple of natural peanut butter and ”all fruit”  jelly sandwiches.  I have also found him upstairs in the computer room snacking on whole bags of dried fruit or nuts.  Granted, these are healthy foods, but they are full of concentrated in calories.  Side note: our family rule is no food outside the kitchen.  What to do?  He is an active kid and not overweight (YET), but I am trying to teach him to balance his food intake more during the day and not indulge in excessive calorie intake during the evening hours.  I have seen this eating pattern all too often at work with our patients. 

We encourage patients to focus on hunger and only eat when hungry, but if you are starting off with poor eating habits as I noted above with my son, you may be setting yourself up for failure.  You may not NEED to eat until later in the day, but then you will overeat and choose all the wrong foods because you are so hungry.  The first food your body craves when over hungry is carbohydrate.  That is because carbs are the most quickly absorbed form of energy and that is what your body is looking for when hungry.  These carbs usually come in the form of starches or something sweet, both of which we encourage patients to shy away from in their diet.  Don’t go all day without eating and then eat only at night.  Your best bet is to get in the habit of eating a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner in addition to protein rich snacks in between if you need them.  Once you get into a more regular eating pattern, you will start to get hungry at those times.  I have seen this work time and time again.  Get away from eating at night like my son! 

I may have lost control of what my son chooses when he is away from home, but I am hoping that all I have taught him over the years has led him in the right direction.  Think about this when you are away from home and “out on your own” so to speak.  Are you still making healthy choices?  Do you still look for a healthy source of protein and seek out fruits and vegetables rather than going for all the high calorie carbs that are so much more readily available?  Most of you know the choices you should be making.  Eating out is a matter of following through and finding healthy alternatives when less healthy options are more readily available. 

My goal with my son is to continue to encourage him to get to bed on time so he can eat a good breakfast, continue to offer a variety of vegetables and/or fruits at every meal in addition to a healthy source of protein and enforce our rule of not eating upstairs/outside the kitchen.   I still need to figure out the peanut butter and jelly issue!  I should probably close the kitchen after dinner.  I would highly encourage you to follow the same guidelines as I have outlined above.  To do so, you will need to make sure you stock your kitchen with healthy foods, plan ahead when going out to eat and plan your meals for the week (especially if you know you will be on the run more than usual.)  I hope to see a good outcome with my son and all of you as well.    Contact me if you have any questions or comments at   

Happy Spring, 


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