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How to Encourage Healthy Eating in Teens

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Because March is National Nutrition Month, maybe now is the time to try to get your teens to eat better. It's satisfying when the kids are little and you can persuade them to eat everything on their plate, even the yucky veggies. But what happens when your toddlers move into their teen years and won't eat anything that's good for them? Here are some tips to move your teens away from fast food to healthy food:

Undercover Veggies
An easy way to get your teens to eat healthy food is do it without them knowing. Sneak veggies in dishes you cook at home. You can spruce up plain ol' spaghetti by chopping up zucchini and mushrooms and slipping them in the tomato sauce.

If your teens like unique spices, stir-fry that leftover chicken with broccoli or snow peas and a little soy sauce or chili oil. Serve it with seasoned brown rice, and they'll gobble it up!

Any dish that has melted cheese on it is usually a winner. If your kids love lasagna, hide some spinach or grated zucchini between the layers of ricotta cheese and noodles.

Prep the Greens
Another way to encourage healthy eating habits is to keep diced and shredded salad toppings, such as chicken or turkey, tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers, in the fridge. Teens are more likely to toss things into a bowl for a quick salad rather than reach for that box of sugar-laden cereal if the prep work is already done. They can toss the salad with Italian dressing, or if you are feeling adventurous, you can teach them how to make their own vinaigrette with some Dijon mustard, olive oil, and vinegar.

Make Your Own 'Fries'
A great way to keep kids from grabbing a bag of potato chips or French fries is to make your own. Simply wash and peel four large white potatoes; cut them into wedges; place them on a pan lined with parchment paper; season them with salt, pepper and paprika; and spray on a little olive oil. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 35 minutes. Every 10 minutes, shake the pan so they brown on all sides. Try serving them with Parmesan cheese or hot sauce for a little extra flavor. If you're really brave, you can make an even healthier version by replacing the white potatoes with yams, zucchini, or butternut squash.

Don't Forget the Juicer
Another way to put more fruit and veggies into your teenagers' diet is to get them to replace sugar-laden fruit drinks with homemade smoothies. You can start simply by placing strawberries in a blender with a banana and a little pineapple juice, or go full force by throwing in some carrots, apples, and spinach leaves. The sweet fruits cover up the taste of the veggies so your kids won't miss the sugary drinks of the past.

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