Teaching Teens About Real Food

Did you check out this amazing Sneak Peak from the Surf & Turf e-course on How Food Impacts Our Mood? The first lesson was AWESOME. Ann Marie’s still accepting late-comers (this week only). Email me for a $20 off coupon!

Thankfully, I discovered the world of Real Food when my youngest was an infant. Translation: it’s pretty easy to get my kids to eat Real Food. They don’t put up a fight when I serve them salads, seafood, or liver. Oh sure, they still beg me to take them to McDonald’s or get them doughnuts from Krispy Kreme, but at least they’ll also eat what I cook. But what do you do when you started eating Real Food after your kids already developed a picky, junk-food loving palate?

I watched an absolutely hilarious video posted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop this morning, and it brought this question to the forefront of my mind.

First, watch the video. Kelly made it to serve as a brief promotional spot for her new Real Food For Rookies E-course. But she used her teenage son to film it, and his responses to their midnight trip to the grocery store had me laughing out loud.

You see, I regularly get emails from Readers asking me how to help their older kids appreciate Real Food. Since my situation is so different, I don’t have advice. What do you do when your teenage son would rather eat Fruit Loops than the eggs and bacon you cooked up?

So, rather than trying to sound like an expert when I really know nothing about the best way to respond, I thought I’d ask you, my Readers, for advice.

What would you do? What do you do? What works? What doesn’t? Let’s help each other out!

(Oh, and to find out more about Kelly’s class, click here!)

Also, these are some of the articles I’ve written on the topic of Real Food and kids over the years. Enjoy!

Raising Kids To Enjoy Real Food
How To Quit Eating Fast Food
Marketing Food To Your Kids
It’s The Junk Food Commercials

(photo by maurag)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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17 Responses to Teaching Teens About Real Food
  1. Elizabeth
    August 25, 2010 | 12:52 pm

    You’ve gotta reach teens where they are. Look at things from their perspective and work from there. I’ve heard stories about getting teens to eat coconut oil because it can help with acne! Clear skin is a huge motivator for many teens, and typically a real food diet can help with that a lot.
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog post …Polyunsaturated Oils Lead to Higher Cancer Risk =-.

    • KristenM
      August 26, 2010 | 9:53 am

      Great point. Most teens really don’t want to have acne (or get fat).

  2. Barb @ My Daily Round
    August 25, 2010 | 2:31 pm

    I’m working on this with my fourteen year old son. He thinks ketchup is a side dish. So, I make sure that we eat real food at home and any processed food that I buy like ketchup doesn’t have corn syrup in it. Weeks will go by without ketchup in the house because I couldn’t find any at the store.

    I do make “treats” like brownies and cookies, but I make them as healthy as possible. I also buy fruit he likes such as strawberries, though with his braces on right now, he can’t eat apples. Soon.

    And, I just keep talking about what’s in food and what I’m avoiding when I make stuff or read the list of ingredients at the store. I also make sure he takes a good vitamin supplement.

    We’ve always cooked from scratch and never had junk food around, but we did go out to McDonald’s which we don’t do anymore. My son does love junk food; he’s got a big sweet tooth. But, I think if I keep talking to him and educating him along the way, he’ll eventually understand and make good real food choices for himself because he knows how food is supposed to taste.
    .-= Barb @ My Daily Round´s last blog post …spray paint- light hardware and shelves =-.

    • KristenM
      August 26, 2010 | 9:54 am

      I think that’s all any of us hope for — that we’ll set good enough examples and our kids will learn what they need to know.

  3. Meagan
    August 25, 2010 | 4:08 pm

    The video was having problems with my internet, so I got the first few minutes watched. Hilarious! I plan to start my kids on real food right away, so hopefully in the future I won’t have any issues!!
    .-= Meagan´s last blog post …Summer in a Day =-.

  4. Jenn
    August 25, 2010 | 10:02 pm

    I started my kids on real food but when they went to school they discovered the “joys” of junk food. Now that we homeschool they don’t have access to the junk but they complain about almost everything I make. We try to talk about why we eat what we do. I’m really hoping that I can find a curriculum/book on the benefits of real food to add to our school year. Ahem. ;-) Seriously, I’m looking forward to buying your book for younger kids as soon as it’s available b/c I think educating kids about the why behind the choices is key.
    .-= Jenn´s last blog post …Oooops I ripped my =-.

    • KristenM
      August 26, 2010 | 9:56 am

      Yes, if I have a struggle, it’s this. I feed my kids Real Food at home (and thankfully they don’t go to public school), but what do I do when they’re at church, friends’ houses, or relatives houses? What do I do when I failed to plan ahead and we’re out and about in dire need of lunch? I don’t feel bad about those times (following the 80/20 rule, right?). BUT, they do make it so that my kids have discovered the “joys” of junk food — particularly sweets.

  5. Tara
    August 25, 2010 | 10:28 pm

    Oh, how I can SO relate! I have a 17 year old son, 12 year old daughter, and 10 year old son. Hardcore NT type real food began about a year or so ago. The most frustrating thing is when my oldest son comes in and complains that there is NOTHING to eat here. Nothing just to grab easily. Not true, I make a ton of stuff. I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of answers, just know that I can understand the frustration.

    • KristenM
      August 26, 2010 | 9:59 am

      I think having pre-made snacks on hand is really useful, even though I’m not a snacking kind of person. That sounds like a good idea for a series of posts.

    • Sharon
      April 19, 2013 | 11:02 am

      I have a 14 yo girl and 17 yo boy … It is definitely a challenge. However, I have found that after reading Jonathan Bailor’s “The Smarter Science of Slim” and the Calton’s “Rich Food, Poor Food” I am able to intelligently share tidbits of the “science” behind why certain foods are not good for you (for example how the USA still allows many of the food additives that have been linked to diseases – other countries have band). Some of the information hits home some of it doesn’t… But there have been more moments than not when I can tell that they have been listening and understand what is good for them. Score for Mom!!

  6. anna
    August 26, 2010 | 8:26 am

    I think the first thing to do is to quit providing the junk food at all, but replace it with more exciting and delicious real food. We have to leverage that hunger! It has to be about not deprivation but replacement with better. Don’t come in and announce that “We are Going to Eat Healthy Now,” and present it as a grim duty that will take lots of will power. If you give them steamed broccoli it’s not going to go over well, probably. But if you make delicious dishes that look good and smell good, hungry teens are more likely to be won over. Teens can understand logic, also. Many do want to be healthy. This generation also values the environment and animal rights, so interesting facts on those subjects can help move them in the right direction. The facts about industrial meat production vs. grassfed are very interesting and provide lots of motivation. I would tell them stories about things you learn. I love Sally Fallon’s stories in Nourishing Traditions, for example the rats who ate the cornflakes and died quicker (and after having fits) than the ones that ate the cereal boxes. The movie Supersize Me is great for turning kids against fast food. Food Inc. is also great to see. I told my kids the most interesting tidbits of what I was reading and still do (they’re 17 and 20), like the statistics on eating a certain number of hotdogs and how that meant a nine times higher chance of getting leukemia. A little fear is a healthy thing. I recommend not coming on too heavy, but make eating healthy more fun and delicious and interesting than eating junk. It’s more like seduction than legislation. Most teens don’t want to be fat and have bad skin, as Elizabeth brought up, so that is a great angle. I agree it is hard to have things on hand that can be grabbed as snacks. If you have time, I would try to have something attractive to serve as an after school snack, even just cutting up some fruit and making it look nice with nice serving dishes. Make it easy for them, and alluring. I think it takes some time to adapt to the different flavors and getting over the addiction to junk, but it does get easier after awhile. It helps if it is enjoyable not turned into a power struggle. Also, if they are complaining, I would simply outlaw that. My kids would not THINK of saying anything negative about the food I serve. They would regret it! Only positive comments and gratitude are accepted. Say that you are not going to accept any complaints. You do not have to put up with that. None of us want our kids to go out and act that way with other people or with their spouses in the future. If they don’t find what they want to eat, it’s up to them to do something about it. Teens are old enough to do that. Well, I’ve probably gone on long enough!
    .-= anna´s last blog post …How to deal with food tantrums =-.

    • KristenM
      August 26, 2010 | 10:04 am

      I love the idea of appealing to values and ideals, and also of conveying short stories that drive the point home. I think both of those can actually have a powerful affect on a teenager, so long as they’re not totally apathetic.

  7. Hayden
    August 27, 2010 | 10:14 am

    I’m sixteen years old and am really passionate about real food. Because we began drinking raw milk, my ezcema went away (I had an ugly red rash all over my face). My younger brother is 14 and he isn’t as excited by it as I am. But I do fun things with him, like looking at the food labels of all the processed foods in the cupboards and finding which have some type of corn in it. Then we’ll cook dinner, and when we cook we can choose what we eat and it’s fun. He’s slowly becoming more and more interested in his health because I’ll feed him little bits of information now again, like clearing up his acne and keeping him trim (very important to a teenage guy)! He loves Burger King and junk food, but when we get in the kitchen and make our own snacks he’s much more inclined to eat them because it’s simply exciting to create something!

    • Sharon
      April 19, 2013 | 11:15 am

      Love your Post Hayden!… It is so refreshing to see someone of your age so passionate about nutrition. Keep up the good work!

  8. TinaC
    January 14, 2011 | 7:04 pm

    I was just looking over your ecourse for my children when my 16 year old daughter came in and overhead, then rolled her eyes and left — pretty much her typical reaction to “mom’s crazy rantings” on why I won’t buy Lucky Charms for breakfast, lol! We have always eaten pretty healthy, but I have been cleaning up our diet and changing it from grain based to healthy fat based just in the last year or so and have met some resistance. I find the key is making absolutely sure I have meals prepared on time three times a day, every day, doubling batches whenever I can to freeze for quick meals, and making sure there plenty of leftovers of their favorites that they can just “heat and eat”. When I serve regular, hardy meals there is very little desire for snacking in between. When they have friends over or do need an extra snack, leftovers and fresh fruit fit that need very well. We do love our desserts, so I also make sure I have homemade versions prepared and allow one per person per day so we don’t feel deprived. As a working, homeschooling mom my time is valuable, but so is my family’s health. I make time for all this by giving most of the housework, laundry and yard work chores to my husband and kids. Since they love the home cooking there have been no complaints. It helps to remember that most of this attitude is just a little teenage rebellion. It also helps that I have overheard my children bragging to friends about how I make everything in the house, “even the ketchup!” lol. On some level they DO appreciate our efforts even if they won’t admit it to us!!

  9. Kendra
    July 17, 2012 | 4:54 pm

    Hi, is this course and book still available? I can’t find it on your site. I read about it when you were first making it and made a mental book mark to check it out when my oldest was ready. He is beginning 8th grade this year(we home school) and I think a course like this would be perfect for him.
    Thank You!

    • KristenM
      July 17, 2012 | 4:57 pm

      Hi Kendra,

      I think you’re confusing the Real Food For Rookies course (which this post was about) with the Real Food Nutrition & Health E-Course & Book (which you can find here).

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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