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Risky Eating Behaviors
Jane Mitchell Rees,
PhD, RD, CD
Helping Parents Cope with Risky Eating Behaviors Among Children and AdolescentsIntroduction
"How can I help my children develop healthy eating habits, especially during the teen years?" is one of the most common questions asked of adolescent nutritional health care providers.
"How do I help them deal with obesity or eating disorders?" is another.
Background, approaches and specific techniques for professionals to share with parents of children/adolescents, in various stages of development, are outlined below.
Family Meals with Adolescents are Key ... Related to
Modern family life is rapidly paced -- less time for healthy eating
Parents give up -- children make own choices
Children's judgment less mature --- parents need to guide them
Father very important
Chronic disease starts in childhood
Take a guiding attitude toward food -- similar to teaching children to manage money
Give increasing responsibility -- developmentally appropriate skill-building and decision-making tasks
Point out problems -- advertising and popularity of unhealthy foods
Involve young children in food preparation -- setting table, choosing fruits, vegetables and occasional treats when shopping
Follow signs that children are ready to help -- use windows of opportunity
Teach label reading -- nutrient and ingredient "literacy"
Focus on unprocessed foods -- limit sugar and fat.
Problems During Pre Teens
Changing habits or coercing them at this period is difficult
Hold family meeting to discuss ways to substitute healthy for unhealthy foods
Change all family food habits together
Begin at beginning to develop healthy habits together -- have to make up for earlier steps omitted
Problems During Teen Age Years
Best if good habits have built up over time
Teenagers experiment with risky food behaviors (as with other health behaviors)
Following experimentation, adolescents are likely to return to healthy habits of family as they had growing up
Girls view food as threat to shape, boys take sometimes dangerous muscle-building supplements
Lack of exercise/eating too much fat and sugar -- RISKY
Realize Problem is Serious at Any Age if:
Child/adolescent is continually emotional and obsessional over food
Eating or starving to cope with unhappiness becomes a vicious cycle
Physical and/or mental health are affected
Anger and conflict erupting over foods shuts out communication
Person cannot or will not change risky behaviors
Solution Seek Professional Intervention
As any out of hand risky behavior, support of family, friends and health care professional is the best method of addressing disordered eating
Irwin CE Jr, Igra V, Eyre S, & Millstein S. 1997. Risk-taking behavior in adolescents: The paradigm. In Adolescent Nutritional Disorders: Prevention and Treatment. Eds. Jacobsen MS, Rees JM, Golden NH & Irwin CE. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1997, Vol. 817 : 1-35.
Adams LB. 1997. An overview of adolescent eating behavior barriers to implementing dietary guidelines. In Adolescent Nutritional Disorders: Prevention and Treatment. Eds. Jacobsen MS, Rees JM, Golden NH & Irwin CE. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1997, Vol. 817 : 36-48.
Eisenberg ME, Olson RE, Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, & Bearinger LH. 2004. Correlations Between Family Meals and Psychosocial Well-being Among Adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158:792-796.
Lytle LA & Roski J. 1997. Unhealthy eating and other risk-taking behavior: are they related? In Adolescent Nutritional Disorders: Prevention and Treatment. Eds. Jacobsen MS, Rees JM, Golden NH & Irwin CE. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1997, Vol. 817 : 49-65.
Rees JM. 1999. Junk food vs. Healthy nutrition for children. An interview for MedicineNet.com.
DisclaimerThis Web Site is a reference for health care professionals, students and educators; it is not intended to provide treatment. If you have a health problem see a health care specialist.