Do you find it hard to get your teens cooking? Are they just not interested in meal preparation? Follow these simple tips to get your teens involved in planning and preparing nutritious meals and snacks. Not only will you help them develop food skills, but you will be helping them develop healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.
1. Get the conversation going
Talking about food with your teens is a great way to encourage interest in cooking and eating. Guide them through learning how to eat nutritiously while respecting their views on food and eating. Watch cooking shows, read cookbooks together or visit your local Farmer’s Market to get motivated.
2. Make a meal plan together
Ask your teens what they want for meals this week and work on a grocery list together. Try to plan balanced meals based on Canada’s Food Guide. If you can, have your teens come along when you grocery shop and ask them to help by choosing produce, and reading ingredient lists and food labels on packaged foods. Download our blank one-week menu planning guide to help you get started.
3. Put your teen in charge
Let your teen decide the menu for dinner once a week and let them prepare and cook it themselves. Try to avoid jumping in and taking over! Guide them instead. Here are some recipe suggestions.
4. Sit down together for dinner
Continue the conversation by eating the meals you prepare together. This is a great time for your teens to plan for the next meal they will prepare.
5. Let your teens decide how much to eat
Trust your teens’ feelings of hunger and being full. Keep nutritious foods like nuts and seeds, yogurt and whole grain cereals on hand for satisfying snacks. This will encourage a healthy relationship with food.
6. Let your teens decide on their favourite snacks
Keep their favourite nutritious snacks at home, like cheese and whole grain crackers, baby carrots and hummus or peanut butter and celery. Encourage them to pre-make snacks and keep them in the fridge. Limit processed foods like chips, candy and pastries, but don’t ban them -it’s ok once and a while.
7. Have your teen pack leftovers for lunch
Encourage your teens to prepare foods like roasted vegetables, curries, casseroles, or a stir fry and pack them for lunch the next day.
8. Talk about what foods to offer when friends visit
Discuss what foods are nutritious options to have when friends are over. This gives teens the responsibility of making food decisions for themselves and their friends. Let your teens get creative with snacks like popping fresh popcorn and adding spices like chili pepper, cumin or cinnamon, or using yogurt to make a Yogurt Banana Split.
9. Be a role model
Remember, your kids are watching. Let your kids learn from your food decisions. They are more likely to make nutritious choices when it is part of your family routine.
10. Make it fun!
If you feel that preparing food is a chore, so will your kids. Add a theme to dinner (like taco night, sushi night or vegetarian night), listen to music or use candles to make eating special. Make family meals a time to connect and share about your day.
How can a dietitian help?
A dietitian can help you and your teen make a personalized meal plan that meets your family’s needs, goals, culture and lifestyle. Some dietitians offer cooking workshops where you can learn hands-on skills in the kitchen. Connect with a dietitian today!
Getting your teen involved in the kitchen helps increase their interest in food and making nutritious food choices. It also helps them learn valuable life skills. Try these 10 tips to get your teen cooking.
You may also be interested in:
Meal Planning for the Vegetarian Teen
Parents’ Influence on Children’s Eating Habits
How to Make a Healthy Stir Fry
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.
Last Update – February 5, 2023