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Q • Since our kids, ages 13 and 15, are attached to their cell phones, iPads, etc., especially in the summer, their eating habits go nuts. I’m not there during the day to monitor what they snack on and was wondering what’s the best way to encourage them to eat healthier.

From a reader • Unless your oldest drives or has friends who do and come over and pick them up specifically to take them to the store or a drive-through, it sounds like you may be the culprit in this scenario. So, stop buying unhealthy snacks. — Tom H. in Chicago

From Jodie Lynn • First, try to keep them busy by enrolling them in a day camp in an area that they are interested in.

This will distract them from snacking/eating too much as well as offer time away from their digital devices.

Secondly, if it’s an all-day camp, they can either take a lunch with them or enjoy balanced meals and snacks provided by the camp itself.

If for some reason you are not able to allow them to go to a camp, you’ll have to make or buy snacks and food that are healthier and actually limit how much of it they have access to.

I’m not sure if they’re boys or girls, but teenage boys have a pretty large appetite and for good reason. Many get a growth spurt during this time and up to age 18 (and sometimes afterward if they’re late bloomers). They need a higher intake of calories for energy and nutrients to help with their growing and developing bodies.

This makes their choices of food important as they will most likely be hungry often, especially if they play sports. In fact, both genders need more calories if they are athletes.

However, whether or not they’re physically active, it’s always the nutritional value that the food contains that counts.

They can give you some suggestions on snacks. At their ages, there’s no reason why they can’t help to prepare them if it’s a homemade item.

Of course, there are plenty of things to buy in today’s market that are ready to open and eat as long as you read the ingredients and calories.

Some things to consider:

• Have fruit on hand that they will actually eat.

• A variety of nuts is a good source of food to have around.

• Most everyone enjoys smoothies, and they’re pretty simple to make. If needed, prepare them ahead of time and keep in the fridge.

• Make up a batch of trail mix and perhaps add different types of unusual, but healthy, ingredients.

• Yogurt is usually a favorite of teens, and you can add your own fruit.

Remember, they’re still just kids and will need direction in what they can eat and when. Unfortunately, most of that responsibility will fall on the shoulders of the parents. Be sure that you’re a good role model in the food department.


My two stepdaughters will be living with us beginning a few weeks before school starts. I have never paid my son for good grades, but the two girls have always received money for their grades. Should I continue what they’re used to or try to change that rule? They will all three be in middle school.

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Jodie Lynn is an award-winning parenting columnist, author of five books and mother to three children. She and her family live in Wildwood.