A short rant about the impossibility of getting teenagers to eat well

I came downstairs on Monday morning, while Belle was getting dressed for school, to the usual collection of breakfast debris. For some reason, she seems to be under the impression that she lives in a cafe, and so every morning is a dilemma – do I ask her to tidy up after herself, and face her teenage wrath, or just do it myself and live in peace?

On Monday morning though, I didn’t come down to the usual sticky peanut butter knife or empty cereal bowl. On Monday I came downstairs to find an empty packet of bacon and tomato ketchup flavour crisps on the sofa. 

teenage fussy eater

I was feeling brave, so I decided to confront her.

“You know it’s not okay to eat crisps for breakfast don’t you?” I said, ducking down behind the table. (Metaphorically.)

“But they were bacon flavour,” she said.


“So it counts as breakfast,” she clarified.

Ah right. Well that’s fine then. 

Now the issue I have is that I’m actually quite fond of Belle, and don’t want her to get rickets or any other weird vitamin deficiency, but once a child gets to 14, how exactly are you meant to make them do things? This applies generally to be honest, but with food in particular, how are you actually, physically, meant to get them to eat sensible things?! I’d hoped that as she got older, she’d grow out of her fussy eating habits, and be happy to at least be in the same room as a courgette, but if anything it’s getting worse. She used to tolerate peas for instance, but even they have seemed to have slipped on to her ‘don’t make me eat that or I’ll gag’ list.

So how do you do it?

I provide her with a range of tasty options and I encourage her to try new things. I don’t especially want to never have treats in the house, (I like treats), but even if I did resort to that, at 14 she is quite capable of just stopping at the shop on her way home and buying her own crisps. Where has my authority gone?

(More to the point, was it ever there in the first place?)

I just want to be a good parent, or at least the sort that you don’t feel the need to report to anyone, but apart from holding Belle down and stuffing her cheeks with kale, how do I make her eat good things?

Photo – Only Fabrizio/shutterstock



  1. Dibs
    21 September, 2016 / 3:22 pm

    Muffins were the answer to my morning whinge over breakfast after I found a recipe that used applesauce instead of butter, they’ve got wheat bran for fibre & I use half sugar & half sweetener; as a plus they freeze well & taste like they should be bad for you.
    Even if she was running late in the morning she could grab one (or two if really peckish) & just go.

    • Jo Middleton
      22 September, 2016 / 10:25 am

      I did suggest muffins to her the other day – I was thinking even some savoury ones with cheese in. She did not look impressed! I might just give them a go and see what happens.

  2. Alison Bessey
    21 September, 2016 / 4:25 pm

    I don’t know! But when you find out, please, please tell me. Food happiness for my 17-year-old (who can’t clear more than one dirty piece of crockery away a week) would be if I served up nothing more than: Bourbon biscuits, Cheddar cheese, pitta bread (no other bread will do), Corned Flakes, Dairy Milk, and salt and vinegar crisps. Anything else is superfluous to her requirements. I was once told our parental role is to offer a range of food. And that’s it. What they then choose to eat is up to them. I’m hoping that somehow this will filter through eventually and voila! she will one day relish the more varied, good food we continue to try to offer…and stop finding my hiding places for the stockpile of the above list!

    • Jo Middleton
      22 September, 2016 / 10:29 am

      Well I’m glad it’s not just me at least. I totally agree with the whole ‘offer a range thing’ – it’s just so frustrating isn’t it?!

  3. kate
    21 September, 2016 / 8:36 pm

    don’t stress! its something she will either go through a face over or it will stick and she might become more unhealthy.usualy though with ours they have all gone through this.they reach the age tha tyes they can actually independently eat what they want and argue the hell about doing so!!
    try to give her the balance.if shes out eating junk,on way to school getting snakcs.be the mainstay the balance that at least at home she being fed well. that means that junk isn’t junk its just a balanced diet. doesn’t mean shoving salads down her,just good family meals. wholesome meals. don’t give up.keep serving her. if she argues just tell her you love her so wont give up on feeding her things that will keep her healthy.
    ask her is there any meals she wants to try,cook with her?take her to a nice restaurant with posh nosh.
    but don’t pander or get worried.if you being a loving mum who tries to feed her hearty meals the best you can then that’s all she could ever wish for.
    if she feels loved,looked out and after she will eturn it onto herself an want to look after herself too in the end.

  4. 21 September, 2016 / 8:38 pm

    Teenagers are impossible….
    I am forever nagging my girl to eat properly. She isn’t too bad at breakfast time but at school she eats cheesy pasta every day which winds me up so much. Once or twice a week, fine but not every day! Grr!

    • Jo Middleton
      22 September, 2016 / 10:21 am

      Haha! They do like to stick to the things they know well don’t they?

  5. Pearl
    21 September, 2016 / 10:53 pm

    Most teenagers start eating more healthily when they ‘discover’ healthy eating for themselves!

    • Jo Middleton
      22 September, 2016 / 10:22 am

      Yeah, I’m hoping that comes soon! Her big sister is really clued up about food, so perhaps she’ll grow into it!

  6. Msedollyp
    22 September, 2016 / 4:49 am

    You can’t! ! I have compromised with my dd and she takes a multivitamin every day under duress but it’s as close as I get.

    • Jo Middleton
      22 September, 2016 / 10:22 am

      I got her some special teenage girls vitamin and mineral supplements, but she won’t even take those – she says they taste too horrible!

  7. 22 September, 2016 / 12:39 pm

    I know I shouldn’t have, but I did snigger at the “But they were bacon flavour” comment :)
    I have no idea – when you find out, can you tell me?!

  8. 22 September, 2016 / 2:14 pm

    Belle reminds me of my sister! My little sister was SO fussy as a kid and teen. You’ll be relieved to say that now, at the age of 29, she eats a lovely varied and balanced diet. I have no advice because I’m not very good at stuff like this and don’t have a teenager, but I’d suggest just keep offering the healthy stuff in the hope that one day she’ll turn around and eat it?!

  9. 22 September, 2016 / 5:58 pm

    I have no good advice here… I’m still eating crisps for breakfast on occasion! :/

  10. 22 September, 2016 / 9:17 pm

    I have caught my son eating crisps for breakfast too, and I’ve just packed him off to Uni so who knows what he’s eating or drinking. All we can do is educate and support, and have faith that in the end they will make positive healthy choices for themselves

  11. 22 September, 2016 / 9:55 pm

    My teen is currently under the hospital due to his low weight.
    I’m a qualified nutritionalist so know exactly what he should be eating but as you say how do you enforce it?
    He would happily live off cereal and sausage rolls forever!

  12. 22 September, 2016 / 11:21 pm

    I have trouble with a 5 year old so not sure how i would manage a teen. I sometimes prep breakfast snack plates in the fridge or i do get up extra early to make breakfast or get him to help but not really sure how to engage Belle into the whole healthy eats thing? Good luck though and I’ll be looking forward to hearing your answer x

  13. 26 September, 2016 / 10:12 pm

    Yep going through the same thing with a 15 year old. The frustrating this is she has always been a great eater until the hit 13! I always boasted about my good eaters and her fussy eating is rubbing off on my 11 year old vegetarian. Aaargh who says it gets easier when they get older!

  14. 26 September, 2016 / 10:14 pm

    I’m scared for when mine are teenagers- they sound a very complex breed! ;) And I used to eat ice cream for breakfast until well into my early 20’s, so I doubt I am going to be a good role model! x

  15. 29 September, 2016 / 10:45 am

    The bacon comment made me chuckle! I have no idea though. Does she do much cooking at home? I had it in my head that when my kids were teens they’d be making breakfast for themselves but more importantly for me! Darn it.

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