Wonderfully immersed in the teen years of complete immortality, my girl does not always see the value of nutrient dense foods.
It's funny to me because you'd think if you build those habits when they're young...
Well, when Emily was a young girl she would do just about anything to avoid a "bellyache." This meant I could usually steer her away from bellyache inducing foods such as sugar and other junky snacks. Even common kid foods such as pizza, with its lack of dense nutrition, she understood should be kept to a minimum. She's never loved fruits and veggies the way I did as a kid, but was mostly a good sport about it. (And I am an expert micro-chopper.)
I've never put intense food restrictions on our family's diet, but I have always maintained my role as ring leader and worked hard to create a food culture in our home that promotes health and builds strong immunity. It also helps to keep mealtimes fun and enjoyable, and the food we eat exciting and delicious.
But this nutrition thing can be a bit of a hard sell when for the most part (food intolerance or allergies aside), teens feel pretty amazing and untouchable regardless of their diet. I know a lot of teens who basically live on bagels with cream cheese and they have more energy than I do!
Ahh... youth. It's a beautiful thing.
Of course, as the mama I know these things actually do matter. Disease prevention is a lifelong process. Immunity is stronger and moods are improved when nutrient dense foods fill the diet. So, I'm still willing to be creative, just as I was when she was younger, but I also realize that at fifteen she's beginning her own adult journey and it may not involve putting chia seeds in her smoothie (at least right now).
On Sunday I had my camera near the kitchen all day and snapped away as I prepared our meals and snacks. Being a lazy Sunday, it wasn't a three meal kind of day, but it still shows a good example of how the teen in my house is eating these days. It was a cooking day pretty much geared toward her likes.
Adam and I may prefer coconut flour to wheat in our pancakes, and we'd rather start our day with a green smoothie versus fruit smoothies (though that fruit smoothie was made with homemade almond milk, chia and hemp seeds... forever a sneaky mom), and sure, the six minute chocolate cake (with a few substitutions - wheat flour, coconut oil, and sucanat) was totally unnecessary but remains one of Emily's favorite dessert recipes, so I was happy to indulge.
It's not all green smoothies and beet juice over here. We are a family made up of different people with different likes and interests. I try to look at the big picture and create a food story that makes everyone happy and healthy.
By the way, Adam made a great sauce for the cake by pureeing a bag of thawed raspberries with a drizzle of maple syrup and straining out the seeds. Delish.
Sometimes people see the foods I post here and on Instagram and wonder if my teen eats exactly as the adults in this house do. She doesn't. While I've never been a short order cook, I do believe each person travels their own path and try to give space for that.
When feeding teens (and children in general) I've found it is important to take note of what does work, and celebrate that. For instance, if I offer Emily a snack of nuts and seeds she'll usually decline. Instead, I just serve them up in a cute bowl and place them near her during the school day. When I do it that way, they always get eaten.
My daughter would never eat a bowl of kale, a bowl of beans, or a bowl of quinoa. But if I micro-chop that kale and mix it into a chili with black beans, quinoa, and a bit of venison sausage - she'll gobble the whole bowl. Maybe even two bowls.
Some of my teen's favorite foods may include homemade hot cocoa and chocolate cake, but if prepared and presented in the right way, she will also enjoy whole grains, fresh berries, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, legumes, and many other whole foods.
Healthy is part of the goal.
Happy and healthy is the true goal. That is when my mama heart feels most content.