As a parent, you have worked to make sure that your offspring remain healthy and happy. As teenagers, they grow ever closer to leading their own independent, adult lives. It is, therefore, imperative that they are equipped for maintaining their own health and happiness. One aspect of making positive nutrition choices is being able to decode the information on food packaging. This is something that a lot of adults struggle with, so your teen will have a little bit of trouble at first. Luckily, they have you to help them make smart decisions about what to put in their bodies and to show them how to continue making those choices on their own.
At the beginning, limit the information on which you focus. A health-conscious consumer presented with a label will find a preponderance of information. That is overwhelming. Instead of trying to take it all in, get your teen to look at key pieces of information.
Start with the ingredients. Your teen should be on the lookout for foods they recognize, rather than chemicals and dyes. Be wary of lots of parentheses. The shorter the ingredient list, the better.
Be aware of the serving size. Often, manufacturers use tricky small servings sizes to limit the number of calories. Teach your teen to compute the full number of calories for the amount they are eating.
Prioritize what is being eaten over the number of calories. Eating 200 calories of sunflower seeds is better than having a 100-calorie pack of cheese crackers. Teach them to think of calorie quality before calorie quantity.
Be aware of the fat source. Many healthy foods contain healthy fats, so you should be eating them. It is better to have some “fatty” avocado than it is to have low-fat cookies.
Look at the total amount of sugar. Teach your teen that both naturally occurring and added sugar will be recorded. But, you want to limit the amount regardless.
Fiber matters. Most people in the US only eat half the daily recommended amount of fiber. Teach your teen to look for high fiber items that use whole food fibers, rather than isolated ones.