Q: My 14-year-old son doesn’t eat meat, fruit or vegetables, and is very skinny and pale, yet all the doctor has recommended is to give him a bunch of vitamins. He consumes a lot of cola because he figures it gives him energy, but it’s rotting his teeth.
A: Forget warning your son about decaying teeth, heart attacks or fainting; these dangers are not real to the invulnerable teen male. Instead, you need to give him a reason to care about eating healthfully.
Body image is everything for teen boys (they’re not much different from teen girls in this regard). So tell him that by consuming a diet high in sugars and low in protein, he is probably going to end up a couple of inches shorter than his potential adult height. “What?!!” I can hear him say.
Now that you have his attention, begin to offer favourite teen foods that can be made healthy, such as whole wheat pizza with low-fat cheese, and baked chicken fingers with baked potato strips. Once he starts to eat good food, I believe he will gradually expand his menu.
Does the rest of your family model good nutrition? If the answer is no, that needs to change in order for your son to adopt good eating habits too. It’s disappointing that he has learned to substitute the quick fix of a bunch of vitamins for real nutrition. (And who is buying all that sugary cola?) You can tell him with certainty that boys do not grow tall on vitamins alone.