Teenagers and Real Food

Is your teen refusing to eat real food?

Have you tried everything possible to get them to see the truth?

I have some advice for you:

Let it go.

I have three teenage boys. That’s right, three. Ages 14, 16 and 17. They are all right in the middle of trying to figure themselves out. Figure out who they are and what they believe. Right now, they don’t want to be a clone of their mother, they want to be different. Actually, they want to be polar opposite.

I’m passionate about food, so, that is where we experience more “rebellion”. I say that in parenthesis because they are good kids. It’s just that sometimes, we disagree.

I know the kids enjoy eating junk food, but they are also very aware of how they feel when they eat real food. They can tell the difference and when they get sick, or get a stomach ache, they can trace it back to whatever they pigged out on in the last 24 hours.

Don’t blame them for desiring junk food. As a teenager, it doesn’t occur to them to think about what their health will be at 30 or beyond. Long term consequences are nowhere near the radar. At this point they think they are invincible  They think they can drink pop and eat cheap pizza for weeks on end and it won’t affect them.  But it does. And if they are used to eating real foods, they will notice the effect. They probably won’t tell you. That’s ok too! (I realize that pop and pizza is probably the least dangerous of things they believe they can do!)

Validation would be nice, but just knowing that they understand what is good and what isn’t, regardless of how “cool” it is. Well, that needs to be good enough for now. Maybe by the time they’re 30 they’ll sit and talk to us about good food.

Right now my kids eat 2 good meals a day. Sometimes they take lunch from home, but most of the time they buy a lunch… a junk food lunch.

What are parents to do?

  1. Only have good food in the house. I do the grocery shopping and the cooking. All that is in the fridge and in the pantry is what I have put there.
  2. Don’t give them money for food. If they wish to eat junk food, let them spend their own money. If they don’t have a job, they will just have to eat what is available… or be hungry. Their choice.
  3. Do not gripe, complain or preach to them about their eating habits. I’m not saying you shouldn’t discuss it at all, but make sure it is a conversation, not a lecture by you.
  4. Be real with your kids. Do you eat junk food? Let them see you! Let them see how moderation works in real life. Let them see you make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up for going out for ice cream. Do not teach food = guilt.
Your child is very intelligent. What you have taught them with you knowledge, your cooking and your own eating habits have been noticed and will be remembered. They are still watching you and they are still learning from you.
Lastly, please realize that healthy eating/sleeping/exercise habits are not the most important thing.
Yes, we all want healthy children. But ultimately our goal as parents is to raise strong men and women. Men and women that have good ethics, strong beliefs, moral standards, treat other well and be a benefit to society.
It is more important right now to keep a good relationship with your children. Don’t allow food to interfere with that.

About the author, Rachel

Hi there! I’m the Joyful Space Specialist. it’s my desire help others create a joyful space of their own and enjoy their time spent at home.


  1. EcoGrrl on 05/28/2013 at 7:07 PM

    While I agree with most of what you’re saying, I wouldn’t agree with the last part about healthy habits being “not the most important thing”. I firmly believe that good health is on par with good behaviors towards others. My father was a good man but he also died from morbid obesity, stemming from poor eating habits and an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. Downplaying health compared to other parts of life is risky – food is part of life and creating healthy relationships to food and exercise is part of learning to respect ourselves.

  2. Anonymous on 05/30/2013 at 2:16 PM

    Thank you for this – I needed the reminder!

  3. Anonymous on 05/30/2013 at 2:20 PM

    I agree with what you’re saying EcoGrrl, but our kids can also learn from example. If you model what you say you believe in, then your kids will most likely find their values in the way you live right?!

  4. Anonymous on 06/03/2013 at 8:02 PM

    I agree with your perspective completely. I have two teenagers in the house, a 16 yo girl and 14 yo boy. I try to keep mostly healthy food in the house, but do sometimes buy things like Doritos and Donuts, too. My kids drink mostly milk and water, have pop only when eating out. I am hoping that if we model good eating and keep mostly healthy food around they will hopefully keep those habits as they move out of the nest on their own.

  5. Kendahl @ Our Nourishing Roots on 06/04/2013 at 2:31 AM

    Great post! I don’t have any teenagers yet, but I think I might be in for it when they arrive 🙂

  6. Rootietoot on 07/17/2013 at 8:13 PM

    My teens are now in their 20’s and living on their own. They came to me asking for recipes, because they got tired of a pizza and poptart diet. Now they cook for their roommates- real meals, with whole grains and vegetables and all the good things. I agree with you- let it go, don’t make a battle of it. If you brought them up on good, nourishing food, they’ll return to it. “Train up a child the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

  7. Kira on 09/05/2014 at 3:43 AM

    I discussed with my 15 years old that it’s not worth to do things despite me.
    It is his life, his health.
    Just like you say about spending their own money.
    If he does “mistakes” at least to do what He really wants.
    Regarding eating out we debate what is better or worse. The ingredients various options contains. Not just a big sweeping “junk food” tagging.
    For example there are pizza takeout which use fresh, real ingredients versus those loaded with fats.
    And he is more conscious when eating out than his friends. Like replacing cola with ice tea. Having a teryaky sub sandwich instead of macchiken. He enjoys talking about the poorer choices he sees others make.

    At times of course I step in when I see repetitive poor choices. Part of parenting of a teenager is guided release and occasional correction, IMO.

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