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How Parents Can Keep Teens Eating Healthy After Leaving Home

When your kids were living at home, you had some control over what they ate. Maybe you had family dinners or bought the groceries for the house. But now that your kid is leaving the nest, they will have full control over what they do and don’t put in their bodies.

Hopefully, you’ve been supporting healthy eating habits and that knowledge will stay with them into their post-high school lives. If you haven’t, all hope is not lost. Either way, there are a few things you can continue to do to encourage your young adult to eat healthy.

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Make sure they have basic cooking skills

“I’ll be honest, I don’t have a lot of expertise in that area. The one time my mom let me make an egg she thought I was going to burn the house down.” – Jasman, Class of 2018, New Jersey

Maybe cooking together has always been a family activity at your house. But even if it hasn’t, you can work with your teen before they leave to make sure they know some basic skills. Do they know how to boil water and run a stove or microwave? Can they make basic food for themselves, like eggs, soup, sandwiches, or salads? If not, get in the kitchen and teach them!

Florida-based registered dietitian Roniece Weaver recommends assigning a simple cooking task while they’re still at home until their skills improve. It can be a great way to get them excited about cooking and inspired to do it on their own. You may be pleasantly surprised how quickly they are able to make full, healthy meals on their own.

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Or if you’re up for it, try taking an intro cooking class together. It can be a fun way to learn some new skills while also being a great bonding experience before they move out. Even if they have moved out, you can still take a class together. It can be a great opportunity to keep the lines of communication open. You can also gift a cooking class that they could take with their friends, or suggest websites that either have recipes with video help or teach cooking skills. Connecticut-based nutritionist Dr. Deb Kennedy recommends the website Craftsy for help.

Send a healthy care package

Whether they’re in college or living out on their own, a care package can be a great way to say “I care” while also encouraging healthy habits. Instead of including candy or chips, try packing dried fruit and nut mix, different kinds of flavored or herbal teas, or whole wheat pretzels. Missouri-based pediatrician Natasha Burgert says a meal subscription, like HelloFresh or Blue Apron, can be another great gift. So is a gift certificate to a local grocery store.

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If you like to make homemade care package gifts, try replacing traditional cookies made with butter and lots of sugar with a lighter banana oat cookie. If you have a couple of overripe bananas on hand, just mash them together with some rolled oats, chopped nuts, and a little cinnamon. Form them into cookies and bake them for 15 minutes at 350 degrees for a surprisingly sweet and healthy alternative to sugar-laden cookies. Kennedy says homemade granola and jerky are also yummy treats that your child can grab and go during this busy time in their lives.

Share recipes

Have a favorite food blog or recipe website you follow? Share it with your adult children. Do your kids have a site they like? Have them share it with you. When a recipe catches your eye that looks healthy and simple, share it. Better yet, try new recipes together, even if you’re not physically in the same place. You can each take turns picking a new recipe to try regularly and report back what you thought — once a week, once a month, whatever works with your schedules. Remember to share photos of the finished product! Not only is it a great way to get everyone eating healthy, but it can be a fun way to stay in touch.