Regular Meals Help Teens Succeed

Dinner and chatting

When kids are young, it can be less complicated to plan for and enjoy family meals. As they grow into teenagers, it can be easy to let family meals fall by the wayside. However, meals together generally mean better quality food to help them grow and develop and teaches them to prepare food and appropriately feed themselves when they move out of the family home.

“Research shows that kids and teens that have family meals tend to do better in school and display higher levels of self-esteem,” said Cheri Harrison, MS, LCPC, pediatric program coordinator at the Memorial Center for Healthy Families. “They are also less likely to reach an unhealthy weight and more likely to engage in frequent family conversations.”

Here are a few things you can do to help your teenager find family meal time enjoyable:

  • Variety is key for enjoyment and nutrition. Include four or five foods: a protein, two grains or starches, a fruit and vegetable, milk and a fat.
  • Encourage them to pick what to eat from what’s offered at the table.
  • Introduce new foods with old trusted favorites.
  • Don’t set limits on how much to eat, but teach them to eat until they are satisfied.
  • Plan ahead. It’s reassuring for everyone to know there is plenty of food and no one will go hungry.
  • It’s OK to make meals and snacks a balance of healthy and not-so-healthy options.

The Memorial Center for Healthy Families offers support and health guidance to kids, teens and parents. The pediatrician led multidisciplinary team works with each family to identify barriers to healthy living, provide support and encouragement and new ideas to help the whole family get healthier. Find out more at

Cheri Harrison, MS, LCPC, is the pediatric program coordinator at the Memorial Center for Health Families. She has worked with children, adolescents and their families for eleven years and enjoys helping families learn to overcome areas they may be struggling with and work toward achieving their goals. Cheri earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Eastern Illinois University and her Master of Science in Clinical Psychology and Community Mental Health from Western Illinois University.