One in six U.S. parents say their teen has tried a diet that is
vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan or paleo at some point in the last
two years, according to a poll released today by the University of
Michigan in Ann Arbor.
It may be tempting to argue about food or push children to join the
clean plate club, but parents should try to understand why their
teen wants to skip family favorites like turkey, sweet potato and
marshmallow casserole or apple pie, said Sarah Clark, co-director of
the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s
“Parents should recognize that this is part of normal adolescent
development toward becoming an independent adult; with that in mind,
try to avoid seeing the situation as a challenge to parental
authority,” Clark said by email.
One way to do this is by explaining the biggest challenges with the
diet – whether it’s cost or lack of time to prepare food or not
knowing what to make – and asking teens to propose solutions, Clark
“Be partners, not adversaries,” Clark said.
Restaurants are one of the biggest challenges; 61 percent of parents
said eating out was an issue with their child’s diet.
At the same time, 55 percent of parents complained about the extra
time needed to prepare special food and 51 percent said the diet led
to conflicts at holidays and family gatherings.
Half of parents also said grocery bills were an obstacle.
The poll, a nationally representative survey of 910 parents with at
least one child age 13 to 18, focused on four different diets.
Overall, 9 percent of parents said their teen had tried a vegetarian
diet, while 6 percent said their child went gluten-free, 4 percent
mentioned a vegan diet and 2 percent said their kid went paleo.
A vegan diet includes only fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains
and seeds. Some vegetarians may eat dairy products or eggs in
addition to these foods. The Paleolithic, or paleo diet, includes
foods like meat, nuts and berries but excludes more recent additions
to the human diet like dairy.
Gluten-free diets avoid wheat, barley and rye and derivatives of
those grains, such as malt and brewer’s yeast. For children and
adults with celiac disease, strict avoidance of gluten is essential,
but experts generally advise people who think they may have celiac
disease to check with a doctor before adopting a gluten-free diet.
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According to parents, teens most often change their eating habits
for health reasons (32 percent) or because another family member
follows a diet they want to try (29 percent), the poll found.
Sometimes their friends encourage the change (17 percent) or teens
think eating differently may be better for the environment (14
Slightly more than half of parents believe the new diet has a
positive impact on their teen’s health, while 41 percent didn’t
think it had any affect and 7 percent thought it had a negative
More than half of parents (56 percent) say they did their own
homework when teens started a new diet, and almost half of them
suggested their child start taking vitamins or supplements.
Just 17 percent brought their teen to a healthcare provider to
discuss whether the diet was healthy.
That’s a problem because most people think they have a healthy diet
even when they don’t, said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical
nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center in New
“So, if your teen decides to try a new fad diet, seek the advice of
a registered dietitian,” Heller, who wasn’t involved in the poll,
said by email. “She or he can help create an evidence based, healthy
meal plan that takes into consideration a person's lifestyle, food
preferences, goals and budget.”
And to survive Thanksgiving, teens may want to learn their way
around the kitchen.
“If someone has special dietary needs it is always helpful when they
can bring a dish to a party that they and others can share,” Heller
said. “This can take the burden off of party hosts and ensure that
the person has foods they can eat.”
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1qguv5M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National
Poll on Children’s Health, online November 21, 2016.
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