Parenting Food and Nutrition

Tempt your preteen to eat healthy

Nandini Muralidharan
11 to 16 years

Created by Nandini Muralidharan
Updated on Jun 07, 2021

Tempt your preteen to eat healthy
Reviewed by Expert panel

If you thought teenagers are tricky, then delicate transition from a child to a teenager – your preteen – will surprise you. They aren't all grown up, but they think they are. At a time when asserting his independence is extremely important to him, a significant area of power struggle is food.

Saying 'no' to anything you put in front of him becomes a daily feature. However, with frequent growth spurts, your child needs a balanced diet for proper physical and mental development. And meal time need not always be a battle. Read on to find out how-

What Constitutes A Balanced Diet For My Preteen?

In these growing years, bone development is progressing, menstruation might set in, and the body undergoes a lot of changes. Your preteen needs these key nutrients to have a balanced diet-

  1. Calcium: to aid skeletal development
  2. Iron: to compensate for loss of blood during menstruation, and for building muscle mass
  3. Protein: to aid development of tissues and muscles
  4. Vitamin D: for bone development
  5. Good fats: for brain and nerve development, and metabolism

How Can I Tempt My Preteen To Eat Healthy?

Here are some tips to help you tempt them into eating healthy and developing this into a lifelong habit.

  1. Don't completely ban the sweets and treats: If you have a no sweets policy at home, you can be sure that your child will anyway indulge without your knowledge. Access isn't an issue, what with the school cafeterias and the neighborhood bakeries offering affordable treats. Make sure you ration them out, while explaining the reason behind why these need to be eaten in small quantities
  2. Make healthy food 'seen': Keep a bowl of walnuts on the dining table when your child is at home. When they open the fridge, let them see a bowl of fruit salad instead of ice cream. Keep granola bars and crackers in the cookie jar. This seems too easy, but once you make a routine of it, your child will automatically start choosing these foods
  3. Cook together: It's never too early to get your child to help in the kitchen. Why not have a fun cooking session and tell her about what goes into a healthy meal? Whip up some veggie noodles with lots of carrot and peas instead of the instant kind. Or make a fruit custard together. When the child is involved in the preparation, she will definitely want to enjoy the fruits of her labor.Get her to help prepare fun charts with diet ideas for the week
  4. Take your child's preferences into consideration: Many a time, a child refuses to eat certain foods. It may be the taste, or the texture or some other reason. Respect her preferences and try and find a nutritional alternative. If your child doesn't like curd, try an extra portion of paneer or an extra glass of milk instead
  5. Eat together without gadgets: Make dinner a time for conversation and laughter. Eating together, with a host of healthy options laid out, will make your child pick healthy foods. This is great for her emotional health, too
  6. Give her responsibility: Tell your child that when you sit down to eat, she will choose what she wants, and how much of it. This tells her that you respect her independence, and consider her responsible. While initially you find that she eats more of only one type of food, this might change soon enough
  7. Set an example: When you sit down to a meal together every day, make sure you don't complain about having to eat broccoli or spinach. If you whine, so will your child. And it gives them the liberty of turning it down. And don't compare your child to any other. Asking her why she can't eat well like her friend is not going to help, and will instead send out the message that you think she isn't good enough

While a healthy diet is absolutely essential, encouragement and positivity from you are equally important to your child. Help your child develop a positive body image, and watch out for any symptoms of eating disorders. Don't let "weight" and "appearance" take on importance, and instead focus on good health.

These are few tips to tempt your 12-year-old into healthy eating. If you have any more such ideas, please do share with us in the comments section below. Happy parenting!

This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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| Dec 26, 2016

Interesting blog. Quite useful for moms like me.

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| Sep 29, 2017

very useful pointers to tempt our pre teens who are just a step away from being a teenager and all set to take a leap with a set of changes such as hormonal, physical , social as well as, emotional . thank u for sharing this blog.

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