Give Your Teen’s Favorite Foods a Do-It-Yourself Makeover

by Jacqueline Newgent, RDN CDN

Give Your Teen’s Favorite Foods a Do-It-Yourself Makeover

Groovy bell bottoms, culottes, headbands and flower power — that's what was fashionable in the late 1960s. It was also when obesity among U.S. teenagers (12- to 17-year-olds) was just 4.6 percent. But the most recent data from 2007-2008 shows obesity rates of 18.1 percent for 12- to 19-year-olds. That means obesity has basically quadrupled for this age group over the past 40 years. And that's one trend teens don’t need to embrace.

There's no single solution for solving our still-growing obesity epidemic. But making small, healthful changes to foods teens overeat — and under-eat (especially veggies) — is an excellent place to start.

Just like teens enjoy the latest music and fashion trends and take pride in showing off their latest iPhone apps or e-gadgets, they will get a kick out of these simple, succulent and stylish ways to give their favorite foods a thoroughly modern makeover.

When They Dine Out

  • Accessorize that pizza! Pick a large thin-crust cheese pizza slice. Get a side salad, too. Top the pizza with the salad, or chop the pizza and toss it into the salad like croutons. Lightly dress with vinaigrette.
  • Go extreme on that burrito! Go ahead — stuff that tortilla so it’s bursting with extra-generous amounts of voluminous toppings: lettuce, fajita-style veggies and salsa. Instead of sour cream, choose two, three or more salsas — if you dare!
  • Opt for burger-less flair. Order a hamburger with cheese and without the burger patty on occasion. Request every veggie possible, plus ketchup and mustard. It’s oddly tasty!

When They Dine In

  • Munch on new-fashioned noodles. Shred fettuccine-like strands of zucchini or carrot, then steam or sauté in a little oil. Dress the zucchini with marinara and basil. Toss the carrot lightly with satay sauce and cilantro.
  • Give nachos a Grecian twist. Top whole grain pita chips or cucumber coins with hummus and chopped tomato. Or bake thin triangular wedges of potato, and top with Greek yogurt and scallion.
  • Go artsy with mac ‘n’ cheese. Take a half portion of mac ‘n’ cheese. Arrange in a heatproof glass bowl or goblet in several layers — filling in between with a favorite veggie, such as steamed spinach or broccoli.
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About the author:

Jacqueline A Newgent RDN CDN

Jacqueline Newgent, RDN CDN




  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day's experiences with one another.

  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

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