The story of calcium and the role it plays in protecting our bones is one most of us are probably familiar with. In fact, you might even be able to recall a parent, teacher or mentor encouraging you to drink your milk when you were younger because of its rich calcium content.
No matter how you discovered the connection, calcium and dairy go hand in hand. Yet knowing that calcium is important and that dairy foods can help you better meet your calcium goals isn’t enough. You actually have to drink your milk and eat your yogurt to benefit.
Unfortunately, not everyone is incorporating the recommended amount of dairy necessary to meet their calcium needs. This is particularly true for girls between the ages of 14 and 18 who, on average, only consume about 1 1/2 cups of milk or dairy a day. This is alarming because teenagers have a crucial need to for calcium at this stage of their lives. With a higher need for calcium, teenage girls face a double-whammy – increased calcium requirements and a tougher time incorporating calcium-rich foods due to a variety of reasons. Busy schedules, increased access to unhealthy food choices, peer pressure, and less family meals together might be just a few of those reasons over 85% of teenage girls fall short on this nutrient in particular.
As a parent, it may seem impossible to encourage your teenager to change the way they eat. Yet thanks to milk and its versatility, you may find that your teenage daughter just needs a little creative inspiration to incorporate more dairy, even just one glass day, into her busy and active life to better meet her daily needs.
To help your teenager incorporate more dairy into her everyday moments, consider the following:
Set the stage. If you want your teenagers to eat well, make sure they have easy access to nutrient-rich foods. When it comes to dairy, this means keeping yogurt, milk and cheese readily available throughout the week. Keeping these products front and center in your refrigerator can be helpful or even consider having a few dairy-inclusive snack ideas printed out and posted on your fridge. This can help keep dairy top-of-mind when your teenager is looking for a snack in between meals or if hunger strikes after an event at school.
Plan meals together. Odds are good that your teenage daughter is beginning to express her own unique personality through the decisions she makes on a daily basis. With that independence, you may feel like there is less opportunity to impact the choices she makes; however, in reality, you can help foster positive decision making by encouraging her to make positive choices. One way to do that is to invite your teenager to help plan out what foods are available in the home. Does she have a favorite type of yogurt? Does she prefer chocolate milk to white? Giving her the ability to have input in food purchasing and planning decisions can solidify ownership over those foods, making them much more likely to be a hit in your home. Your teenager may also have great ideas for incorporating a variety of foods into regular meals and, if you aren’t already doing so, may increase the likelihood of enjoying family meals together.
Focus on what matters to her. Whether your teenager is active in sports, an honor student, or both, what they eat absolutely impacts their performance. By focusing on what matters in her life, you can begin discussing how foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt can enhance those activities and allow your teenager to perform at her optimum level. It puts some of that “healthy food” knowledge into real life terms, giving context as to why it matters.
Encourage them to conquer. Enjoying dairy-rich foods can be a part of your teenage daughter’s story. You can encourage her to conquer her world with a glass of milk in hand by introducing her to Conquer with Milk on Instagram and Twitter. By following us there, your teenager will have access to teen-friendly recipes, content, and inspiring insights from top female athletes that we’ve partnered with to share the story of milk. Check it out today – it’s really a great place to start.
With these helpful tips, your teenager will be well on her way to incorporating the recommended three servings of milk, cheese or yogurt a day. And even if they don’t thank you now, their bones will when they are older.