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The “awkward” teenage years are fraught with many challenges, especially for growing boys. For some, growth spurts and hormonal changes can make it almost impossible to maintain a healthy weight. For others, the struggles of adolescence contribute to sluggishness and obesity. Whatever the case, chances are your teenage boy is more interested in video games and girls than maintaining a healthy weight or getting enough exercise. If you’re concerned about your teenager’s eating habits, there are several subtle ways to influence his diet.

healthy eating habits for teen boysA Teen’s Unique Nutritional Needs

Much like an infant, toddler or adolescent, teenagers have unique nutritional needs. Your teenage boy is growing rapidly, meaning he’ll require at least 2,200 to 2,500 calories per day to remain healthy. Ideally, these calories should come from a combination of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein and dairy products. Aside from an ideal daily caloric intake, your teen should also consume foods rich in iron and calcium. The majority of teenage boys are more interested in energy drinks and soda than low-fat milk. However, these sugary drinks can weaken bones and may even lead to osteoporosis later in life. As a rule, encourage your reluctant teenager to consume at least 1,200 mg of calcium each day. This is often best accomplished by offering a variety of low-fat dairy options, such as skim milk, yogurt and cheese.

Shop Smarter

As a parent, you’re in a unique position to affect your teenager’s eating habits simply because you decide which foods are brought into the house. Simply put, if it’s not readily available for consumption, chances are your teenage boy won’t miss it. The next time you’re at the grocery store, purchase a variety of foods you know are both good for your teenager and will also satisfying his cravings. Chances are instead of leaving home to visit the local convenience store, your teenager will gladly grab an apple or banana and consume it quickly in order to get back to his video game.

The Perils of School Lunch

It’s easy to control what your teenager eats at home. Unfortunately, you cannot be there to ensure he makes thoughtful decisions in the school lunch line. Packing a lunch featuring lean meats, whole grain, low-fat dairy and fruit is the ideal way to keep your teenager from eating out of the vending machine. However, there will be times when he’d rather go to the local fast food restaurant with his friends. If this is the case, try to balance out this unhealthy meal by serving him a nutritionally balanced dinner.

Offer Healthy Alternatives

There will inevitably be times when your teenager will turn his nose up at the prospect of dining on sautéed green beans, salmon or lean chicken. Instead of fighting, offer your son a healthy alternative to his favorite foods. For example, if your teenager is a fan of traditionally greasy French fries, offer him fries baked in the oven. Instead of keeping the shelves stocked with chocolate chip cookies or greasy potato chips, offer your teenager graham crackers, pretzels, unbuttered microwave popcorn or baked potato chips. There are a number of healthy alternatives available, and don’t be surprised when your teenager starts asking for them instead.

Knowing When to Say “OK”

There are times when your teenager won’t be satisfied with baked chips, yogurt or sherbet. As a parent, you must realize that it’s okay to let him enjoy a bowl of ice cream, fried chicken or even fast food every now and again. An occasional can of soda or pint of mint chocolate chip won’t completely derail your teenage boy’s diet. In actuality, it will satisfy his temporary cravings, which in turn prevents future binges. Even if you’re trying to set a healthy example, it’s also okay for you as a parent to enjoy a bag of potato chips or a chocolate chip cookie together now and again.

If you’re concerned about your teenage son’s weight, it’s important to speak to a doctor. Oftentimes, there are underlying causes for your teen’s inability to either gain or lose weight. Most of the time, however, your doctor will reassure you that the best thing you can do for your teenager is continue to offer him a balanced diet — and encourage him to put down the remote control and pick up a basketball.

About the Author: Leon Farris is a blogger and proud father of three. Leon recently lost 35 pounds in a matter of months by dining on the delicious options available through diettogo.com

Disclosure:  This is a partnered post.