This Healthy Eating Trick Isn’t Always Best For Teens

Drink a cold glass of water before each meal. Eat a big, nutritious breakfast. Keep a food journal. Use smaller plates. We’ve all heard the tips and tricks to help you change your eating habits, but do they really work? A new study shows that at least one doesn’t, particularly for overweight teens.

Researchers at the University of Connecticut tested how attentive teen girls were to portion sizes and quizzed them about their perception of the amount of food on different sized plates. There were 162 girls ages 14 to 18 involved in the study. The researchers found that overweight teenage girls were less attentive, on average, to these visual cues of different types than their peers.

Lance Baurer, psychiatry professor involved in the study, explains further:

This suggests that changing the size of their dinnerware may be less effective than we thought. It also suggests that presenting them with detailed charts summarizing diet rules or calorie counts might also be less effective than we would like. The study’s results imply that diet education for overweight or obese adolescents should be clear, simple, repeated, and interesting.

Here at Choices, we like to promote positive body image for teens of all shapes and sizes. We know that for some teens, altering nutritional habits could mean leading a healthier life. If your teen has decided to embark on a journey of healthier eating, it’s important to remember that no one method will work for everyone. But there are some ways you can help make it easier. If visual cues like smaller plates don’t seem to be working well, try engaging your teen’s cognitive abilities when it comes to nutritional facts and healthy eating strategies.

In general, talk to your teens about proper nutrition and the benefits of exercise. Share our story about one teenager’s journey to get healthy from our November/December 2014 issue. Sometimes learning about someone else’s progress can help to improve your own.

For tips on how to make meals healthier, check out our “Make Over My Meal!” story from our April issue of Choices. Choices is a health, well-being, and life skills magazine for middle and high school students.

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