4 Bad Food Habits Teens Have and How to Fix Them

As teens become more independent in their food choices, they sometimes enjoy indulging in some not-so-healthy options. And if their friends have similar eating habits, they may underestimate how bad their diets really are because it seems normal to eat hot dogs and cookies for lunch.

Here are the four worst food habits teens have and what parents can do to help change them.

Teens often drink too many sugary soft drinks.
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Skipping Breakfast

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as many as 20% to 30% of teens do not eat breakfast on a regular basis. Eating breakfast can upstart your teen's metabolism, which helps with weight control, mood, and school performance.

Parents can play a big role and try to change this behavior. You can ensure that your teen eats a healthy breakfast by making the foods readily accessible to him. Make it a part of your routine to put breakfast on the table and sit with your teen while you both enjoy a healthy breakfast. Or, if time is a problem, look for quick and healthy breakfast options that are perfect for on-the-go meals.

Eating Too Much From the "Other" Food Group

In the food pyramid, the "other" food group is the smallest section at the top. It is filled with foods that are supposed to be the least amount of servings in a daily diet. This category includes foods teens tend to gravitate towards, including high fat and calorie-laden snack foods. Quite often, eating too much from this food group doesn't allow enough healthy foods into their diet.

However, not all foods high in fat are "bad." For example, cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, though portions should be limited.

Help your teen break this habit by having fruits and healthy snacks available. Try to avoid having processed foods and those high in high fructose corn syrup in the kitchen as well. It is easier to grab a bag of chips than it is to pick up fruit that needs to be washed and peeled. Yet, if fewer or those "other" foods are around and you set a good example for your own snack choices, your teen can eventually change their ways, too.

Dining Out Often

Teens hit fast food restaurants much more often than they did when they were younger. This is often because their school, sports, and work schedules overlap with regular meal times.

To circumvent this bad habit, talk to your teen about only eating fast food once a week. Then make dinner and healthy food available to her when she has the time. This is as easy as fixing an extra plate and allowing her to heat it up when she gets home from sports practice or whatever activity she enjoys.

Drinking Soft Drinks

A study looking at American youths aged 6 to 17 found an increase in the prevalence of soft drink consumption from 37 percent in 1978 to 56 percent in 1998. Though these number declined between 2000 and 2010, sugary beverages remain a favorite among teens. They are also one of the primary causes of obesity and are certainly not the healthiest beverage choice your teen can make.

You can help your teen choose a healthier drink by having water and fruit-flavored carbonated water on hand. These are a low-sugar alternative that still offers a hint of flavor and sweetness and teens really enjoy them once they give it a chance.

A Word From Verywell

One common denominator for getting teens to eat healthier and avoid these bad food habits is your active role in providing healthy foods. If you can get in the habit of making these foods more readily available to your teen, you will see a change in their eating habits. You can also set an example for your own food choices. In the end, your entire family can enjoy eating healthier.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Healthychildren.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The case for eating breakfast.

  2. French SA, Lin B-H, Guthrie JF. National trends in soft drink consumption among children and adolescents age 6 to 17 years: Prevalence, amounts, and sources, 1977/1978 to 1994/1998Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2003;103(10):1326-1331. doi:10.1016/s0002-8223(03)01076-9

  3. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Health policy brief. Still bubbling over: California adolescents drinking more soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.

Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. The Case for Eating Breakfast. Healthy Children Magazine.

  • Babey SH, Wolstein J, Goldstein H. Still Bubbling Over: California Adolescents Drinking More Soda and Other Sugar-Sweetened Beverages. UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, author of the bestselling book "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and a highly sought-after speaker.