The Gap In The Food Years

A mom's take on the challenges of feeding teenager's nutritious meals and taking care of their health, compounded by body image issues and the lure of fast food

As moms we constantly worry about our children. It comes with the role. Maybe “worry” is a strong word, but at the end of the day, the sometimes intense, sometimes fleeting emotion we feel to do the best for our kids is a constant. There is pride in how we raise them, in the little words they utter, the steps they take, the numbers they put together. However, the one factor that we all invariably zone in on is the appetite. The food.

fast food or apple?Most moms of toddlers and up until they are about 7 or 8 years old are the visibly anxious ones. The problems they face range from picky-eaters, to sensitive tummies, to babies who throw up, to supplements, to the different kinds of milk to use, to how to sneak vegetables in, to how to keep it fun and interesting and so on.

It’s all very exciting, very challenging and well, very involved.

Then, just like that, the chatter disappears. Zip. No one speaks about the lanky 12 year old five footer, or the pre-adolescent pimply girl in 7th grade, the teenager who looks like an adult in height but is still a young boy within. Maybe it’s because, visually, they look and feel like they are in control. The kid and the parent, both feel that they (kids) have “arrived”. He or she is old enough and understands hunger, knows what to eat and he/she will eat when hungry, so mission is accomplished. Not entirely true, as I learn along the way.

Somewhere along the line, as we raise our children, we take them for granted as they become more independent and vocal in their needs. When they are still in their single digits, the need to guide them through their requirements, both for the body and the mind. We work on vegetables, the protein content and the iron. It is important in the growing years that the body gets its sufficient nutrition, to be able to perform its best.

My older children are now teenagers. I have a seven year old too. It is an interesting combination, one that requires some creativity and resilience. As I now stand at the kitchen table at 6 am, fixing their lunches or while making dinner in the evening, am forced to think of choices in  way that I didn’t know I could. The planning of the menu on what to feed the family is a challenge. Much more than what it used to be even 4 years ago. And I’ll tell you why in just a second.

The pre-teens are still growing. Their bodies in fact are undergoing a major overhaul to become ready for their adult roles and life. Breaking the diet down, we have:

– They need their dose of iron (of more importance if its a girl), calcium is very essential for their growing bones, potassium and magnesium for the muscles.

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– Then we have the added carbohydrates, proteins and fat. (yes, we need fat, they need fat. Fat is not all bad)

– Their lifestyles and demands on their brain and body (sports and schoolwork for instance) require more of the above in potent doses as compared to an adult or a child.

You’d think after feeding them all these years, this would and should come naturally to us mom-feeders. It does. Except that we now have enemies that blow all our efforts apart.

What enemies?

– The onslaught of media dictating or at least hinting at how they look, and how the pre-teens and teens perceive themselves to be seen by the rest of the world.

– They are now smarter than they were as kids whom you could fool by throwing in spinach into their smoothie and saying: “Oh, this is a special drink that next door buddy of yours loves and his mom” or “this is what makes superman fly” or some such lame excuse to get them to be some kind of popeye.

– The kids are not kids we can yell or shout at. Try it and you will be yelled at too (sometimes audibly, sometimes not).

– There is absolutely no literature, support or nutrition classes or role models that this group will listen or be exposed to. No, am serious.

– They think it’s cool to eat out.  Every day. Let’s not even talk about what is added in a processed food for now.

– A parent’s own reasoning, thinking that the kids are old enough to know and hence are growing fine!

So now, here we are with these “kids” who are as tall as we are, not as cute or innocent as they were, thinking and processing everything they see around with a new set of glasses, assuming they know-it-all, and assuming that obsessive moms are out there to only sneak in healthy-awful tasting food into them in the sole effort to fatten them up.

Add a few more factors like busy lifestyles, a Mom’s energy levels split in different ways due to the other roles she plays in life and we have an invisible force on our hands that will sneak in on us later on in our adult lives.

I am no nutrition specialist, but as other moms will agree, we learn, observe and apply as we go along. I will be writing a couple more posts on this as a weekly, and the posts will be about my experiences and observations on what it is to be a teen’s mom. I sure don’t know it all, but I may know some.

ps: I use the word moms, loosely. I know for a fact that there are some awesome dads who take great pride and interest in playing an equally important role in their kids’ nurturing and welfare.

 Pic credit: Roz Sheffield (Used under a Creative Commons license)


About the Author


Rads lives in the suburbs of Washington DC along with her husband, three kids and dog. Profiled on Her Story, she is an optometrist and a data analyst in previous years, and is now playing read more...

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