Kids eat right.

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

By Jacqueline Newgent, RDN, CDN
No Image

monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

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 2016 shows obesity rates of 31.2 percent for 10- to 17-year-olds. That means obesity has increased by almost 6-fold 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 phone 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.