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How to Fearlessly Feed Your Teen

When my first son was born, one of my goals as a doting mother, and as a registered dietitian/nutritionist, was to raise him to be a healthy eater. From the get-go, I tried my best to instill in him a love of nutritious food and balanced eating habits. I still try to teach him, at age 15, and his 11 year-old brother, healthful habits–sometimes I do so by verbalizing something interesting I learned about diet, but most often (and most successfully) I model habits I encourage them to develop.

Like so many other parents, I have undoubtedly made some feeding (and other) mistakes along the way in raising my children. Did I really need to introduce them to fast food? Should I have ever allowed so-called ‘junk food’ in the house? And, what was I thinking when I introduced my children to their first kid’s menu (to which they’ve become accustomed) when dining out? Even parents like me who should know better sometimes make questionable feeding decisions.

But, does being a mother of a teen or tween mean it’s too late to empower our children and instill in them better habits when it comes to choosing and eating food? Is there anything we can say and do now to help our older children not only make better food choices and eat more mindfully as they grow, but make better decisions as they increasingly eat away from home?

To the rescue comes a brand new book called Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters From High Chair to High School. Written by registered dietitians Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen, the book is an extensive and comprehensive resource all parents can use as a toolbox to empower their children–even those in or entering the temperamental teen years–to become healthy eaters.

Below you’ll find Castle’s helpful responses to a few questions about feeding teens, folllowed by a delicious Turkey Slider recipe you and your teens are sure to love.

1) What’s the biggest challenge you think parents of teens face when it comes to helping their kids eat well?

Parents face several challenges, including keeping up with a bigger appetite and staying on track with healthy eating. But one of the biggest challenges is communicating about nutrition in a manner which doesn’t turn off the teen (or cause more problems), is developmentally on target, and compassionate. I’ve been told by many parents that they don’t know what to say, or are afraid they will damage their child. Listening to teens, rather than lecturing, and guiding them to figure out nutrition, with factual information, and an empathetic perspective can go a long way toward keeping the lines of communication open. Teens may do some experimenting with food and nutrition, and this is normal, but it can be concerning for many parents. Finding ways to keep the lines of communication open and productive is important, but a challenge! We’ve included some information for doing this in the book.

2) If parents of teens feel like they have made feeding mistakes while raising their kids, is it too ate for them to help their teen eat a more nutritious diet and reduce their risk of not only becoming overweight but of developing an eating disorder or poor body image?

It’s never too late! Today’s parents are still in the mode of role-modeling lifestyle behaviors for their teen, as well as setting up a nutrition environment at home that reflects nutritious foods and regular meals. Parents really cannot control what their teens eat outside of the home, but can certainly guide them to make healthy choices. Communication is a key to helping the teen eat well and identifying behaviors that may be dangerous or unhealthy in the long run. A healthy self-esteem and body image is in development from early on in childhood, but parents can help their teen by being a good listener, supportive and empathetic to their concerns, while keeping the home front a model of nutritious, tasty food. We give sample dialogue in the book as well as how to communicate with teens in a productive manner.

3) What’s your bottom line advice for a parents of teens to empower them to eat well and nurture themselves to grow into healthy adults?

I find teens to be incredibly observant of their parents’ behaviors—noting whether they smoke, drink, eat well or exercise. If parents can show their teens that they care for and appreciate their own bodies, eat well, and have a positive outlook on living well (without being too controlling, obsessive or strict about nutrition or exercise), this will go a long way to cementing an image of health and wellness that the teen (hopefully) will mimic, if not now, then later in young adulthood, after the developmental phase of adolescence passes. Families have a great opportunity to showcase this at family meals—so I advise getting teens around the dinner table as often as possible!

Asian Turkey Sliders

Make a meal! Pair these sliders with homemade French fired or sweet potato fries and Greek chopped salad.

Makes 10 to 12 sliders.


1 pound ground turkey

¼ cup panko (bread crumbs)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon ginger paste

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 scallions (green onions), white and green parts, thinly sliced

12 bakery-style dinner rolls


1. If using an oven, preheat to 400F.

2. Mix the ground turkey, panko, soy sauce, ginger paste, sesame oil, and scallions together in a large mixing bowl.

3. Roll the mixture into 10 to 12 small balls and press each into a 2-inch circle.

4. Bake the sliders on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes, or grill until done.

5. Serve the patties on dinner rolls.
Nutrient info: Each slider is an excellent source selenium and manganese and a good source of niacin, thiamin, iron and phosphorus.

Reprinted by permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from Fearless Feeding by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen  Copyright © 2013 by Jill Castle and Maryann Jacobsen.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Fearless Feeding by the publisher.

How do you fearlessly feed your children?

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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized and award-winning health and nutrition expert, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books. An avid walker, she loves motivating others to #moveitorloseit. A book lover, she recently earned a certificate in children’s literature from Stony Brook Southampton and is currently working on several young adult novels. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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