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Helping a Teen Choose a Balanced Diet

The problem: My 12 year old sister does not eat anything. I could honestly list for you what she eats in a few short seconds: cereal (her main sustenance), crackers, toast, waffles, popcorn, yogurt, granola bars, french fries, junk food like chips, and deserts. That's it.


Call it picky eating if you want, but it's got to be the most extreme case that I know of personally. Anyway, as you can see this is a big worry for me. To the age of five she ate many things including meats, fruits, and vegetables. From six onward what she liked gradually lessened. She's been at this stalemate for the past 4 years, hardly eating anything nutritious and yet still growing normally and at a decent weight.

When you try to get her to eat anything new it is a battle of epic proportions. She'd rather starve than try something new. The last time she tried a hamburger it was a forced battle that took a half an hour, to which she spit up immediately.

Today she claims she is now a vegetarian, only because she refuses to try anything that doesn't look appealing to her. My parents are getting old and losing their patience with her. We want her to be healthy and eat a balanced diet, but we have no idea how to go about it. Every time we try to talk to her she has nothing to say and we are forced to give her what she wants so she doesn't starve.

If anyone has advice this would be so appreciated. I hardly doubt this is a "phase" she will get over, since it has lasted for over 6 years. We need intervention, but just need advice now. Thank you.

By Kelly from FL

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February 1, 20100 found this helpful

See if your doctor will recomend a nutritionist and maybe your sister will go. These people councel diebetics and people who cannot eat certain foods. If you can get her there, the nutritionist might be able to convience her to eat right at least some of the time.

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February 1, 20100 found this helpful

It is hard to say what the problem might be without talking to your sister in person. She may need to talk to a counselor. Something traumatic may have happened to her that causes her to make decisions that harm her health. This doesn't have to be the case in order for her to make bad decisions though.

If you can rule out the traumatic events, I would find articles that talk about how eating mainly carbohydrates is hard on the body. Even though she's doing fine now, she will end up with blood sugar problems. Not only that, if she doesn't eat healthy sources of fats, vitamins, minerals, and proteins, she will look and feel terrible. She will have no energy. Her skin will be pale, dry and saggy. Her hair will be dull and lifeless. She will probably start to gain weight. Most girls care how they look, so this may be a motivator for her. She is twelve, so if she isn't already there, she will soon enter puberty. Your body demands extra nutritious foods in order to go through this phase of life.

I would also find articles, websites, etc. that explain what a healthy diet will do for you. For example, eating healthy fats like olive oil will help you maintain a healthy weight, etc.

Don't shove your findings in her face. Just read them to your mom or dad when your sister is near and act really interested in and excited about what you've found. Then leave it out where she can find it later. You may find that you've learned some things as well.

Also, for my own children, I find that if I am eating healthy, they will too. If I make bad choices, they follow. That is true with my husband too. If he picks up a candy bar after supper, they want one as well. It is extremely important to be a good example of healthy eating.

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February 1, 20100 found this helpful

It sounds like she is just not that interested in eating, so she eats what is easy to eat. On the up side, she probably has low cholesterol, despite whatever junk food she eats, but how about fruits? What is her favorite fruit? Apples? Bananas? Keep a few in the fridge or on the counter. If she wants to be a vegetarian, it just means eating everything that you do, but not meat.

There are other ways to get protein. Peanut butter sandwiches are an alternative. Take it easy. Make sure she takes a multivitamin. She should have easy choices that are readily available. Add to her world by putting out a nutricious snack that no one has tried. Talk about taste, texture, what about it is good and good for you. You never know. Something might hit a chord.

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February 1, 20100 found this helpful

What a caring sister you are! Many kids go through picky phases and pre-teens and teens are notorious for making poor eating choices. Certainly you should keep an eye out that she is eating something and taking a multivitamin would be a great way to back up her lack of variety. Continue to offer healthy foods and encourage her to choose the healthier choices among the things she will eat.

See if she will eat some fruit with her yogurt or make banana or zucchini bread for when she is craving something sweet. Look for articles on getting small kids to eat their veggies. You can sometimes 'sneak' an extra nutritional boost into things. Keep trying and hopefully she will pass through this phase. If you really think something is wrong, talk to your parents or a school counselor. 12 is a hard age for a lot of kids, no sense adding extra stress unless you really need to.

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February 3, 20100 found this helpful

I notice that all the foods you mention are all very high carb. It's very possible that she's has a carbohydrate addiction. It's very easy to do.

At 12 she is probably starting to be concerned about how she looks and should start to watch her weight. The best way to overcome carb addiction is cold turkey - take them all away. Don't provide chips, a lot of sweets, provide low-carb cereal like Special K and have a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit and cheese available. Peanut butter is good with low-carb bread. Keep the yogurt and add the veggies and fruit. It might be good to keep a nice dip around to make the veggies more interesting. Just a thought. It's hard, I know. But if it's not there, she can't be tempted and I really don't think she's gonna let herself starve.

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February 6, 20100 found this helpful

My sister had two sons who were extremely picky eaters when they were very young. She solved it by striking this deal: let's say she wanted them to try sweet peas. She put x number of peas to match how many years old they were on their plate, and they had to eat that much and no more unless they asked for more. At your sister's age, perhaps the amount could be one teaspoon or tablespoon full.

btw, cottage cheese, applesauce and the like are delicious and easy to get at. As for the yogurt, perhaps she'd consider trying a spoonful or two of fruit in it? And all nuts are full of protein and healthy fats.

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February 6, 20100 found this helpful

Forgot to mention, that same sister convinced me to eat my saurkraut by making it fun. She let me eat it with chopsticks, lol! Whatever it takes!

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