How to Survive Your Teens Food Choices Without Starving Them to Death

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

As your kids start to make their own choices, it is important that in the early stage, they are educated and trained to make the RIGHT choices. And the truth is, realistically, that is not what’s happening in many homes. So today, we’re going to share with you some actionable steps that you can do to give your children a better health by helping them make the right food choices.

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Donny Osmond: Hi, I'm Donny Osmond, and welcome to the Brain Warriors Way, hosted by my friends Daniel and Tana Amen. Now, in this podcast, you're going to learn that the war for your health is one between your ears. That's right. If you're ready to be sharper and have better memory, mood, energy, and focus, well then, stay with us. Here are Daniel and Tana Amen.
Dr Daniel Amen: From Tanya. My son has ADD. Five types in total. He is resisting a lot with the diet, saying he doesn't believe in it, and is also not taking the supplements, although they are natural. What kind of approach do you recommend so that I can help him start the program to see if he changes his mood and believes in the program? I really don't know how to help him once he doesn't seem to want any help, but is not well at all.
Tana Amen: Can I start this one? Would you mind? 'Cause I like this one. This is very typical.
Dr Daniel Amen: I've actually never been your boss, so-
Tana Amen: That works out well that way. But I like this one a lot, because this is very common for what I hear when I'm working with mothers' groups, and it's very typical. It's very classic. My first question was I'm going to assume by the tone of the question that your son is not really young, 'cause otherwise you would just be doing what needs to be done, and there would be no questioning on his part. But if it's a-
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah. If you're on and you're watching ... can they send us notes? We would love to know how old your son is.
Tana Amen: So I'm going to assume he's at least adolescent. Okay? At least in this pre-adolescent or adolescent or teenage stage. And it's different than when they're young. When my daughter was young, I did all the shopping. She didn't have a choice. She just did what we did, and so we were able to establish some habits. But we have strong 12-year old. So she's going to-
Dr Daniel Amen: Really?
Tana Amen: Oh my gosh. She makes me look like a cream puff. So she's going to push back. She's going to let us know. Even when she knows that it's right, it's like she just has to go, "Well, you don't know everything." It's just who she is. And actually, I say if I can survive her strength, it will serve her well. I don't want to take that away from her. So as she gets older, the approach changes. Okay? As a child becomes older, I don't want her to have to think of me being the dictator in her life, having to listen to all of my words in her head. I want her thinking for herself. So the approach becomes different. I negotiate with her in a way that's practical. In a way that's healthy. So I do the shopping for the house, there's no options there. I do the shopping for the house, I'm not going to buy poison. But when-
Dr Daniel Amen: Whether they're a teenager or not, you do not have to contribute to their [crosstalk 00:02:36].
Tana Amen: And the last time I checked, it takes like 30 days for a kid to starve to death. I know that sounds mean, but I'm a nurse, and that's just reality. So if they don't eat, they don't eat.
Dr Daniel Amen: So you're saying all nurses are mean?
Tana Amen: Kind of. But not all of ... I mean, we have a nice side too. But anyways, we can be tough. But that said, I also want to give her some freedom and some choices. So we negotiate and we've got times that she can make her own choices, and as long as she knows the consequences of those choices, it's all about education. On top of all of that, you have to be the change you want to see. It's all about you. Your kids ultimately will do what you do, not what you say. That's really the basis of it. They're going to push back, fight back, and now my daughter suddenly thinks that she's the one who came up with all these great ideas for eating healthy. You know? Okay, good. I'm so happy about that.
Tana Amen: But finally, one thing I want to say ... so you want to ... don't just push spinach and chicken breast. Ask him to get involved. Like, "What are your favorite foods?" You often say one of my gifts is taking unhealthy recipes, and the way that came up was because I wanted to be able to get this strong kid on board.
Dr Daniel Amen: Taking really healthy food and make it taste amazing.
Tana Amen: Right. But what I did was I got your favorite foods and her favorite foods, because husbands are really sometimes the biggest kid in your family when it comes to eating healthy. I know this. It has to taste good. So it has to taste good.
Dr Daniel Amen: It has to taste good, right? I mean, it has to [crosstalk 00:03:57]-
Tana Amen: Right. So you get their favorite recipes, and you rehab them. I have got healthy recipes for coconut shrimp, and chicken fingers, and chicken wings, and I could go on and on. But it's finding those. I brought those desserts in today to share with some visitors we had from out of the country. They were gone. I'm like, "Where did they go?"
Dr Daniel Amen: They were really good.
Tana Amen: They were really ... two ingredients. They are so simple. So those are the things you want to be able to do. It has to taste good.
Dr Daniel Amen: So as I'm reading your question, I think one of the types he's got to have is either Ring of Fire or Overfocused. And he's probably argumentative, oppositional. Things don't go his way, he gets upset. I've dealt with thousands of people like that, and the more you push, the more they push back. So I almost think of it like a hit and run. Just tell him what things could be helpful, and don't push. And give them the opportunity. Have healing ADD through food, and go, "Are there any things here that you want me to cook for you?" And "So, how did you feel today? What did you eat today?" Just beginning to connect the dots can be so helpful. Get him to watch, if you will, even if you bribe him, the PBS show that Tana and I did.
Tana Amen: I'm totally not above bribery. I think it works really well.
Dr Daniel Amen: I mean, you know, most of the people in this room who are working to help put this on would actually not come to work if we didn't pay them. Actually, probably all of them wouldn't come if we didn't.
Tana Amen: Let's just be honest.
Dr Daniel Amen: You're probably the only one that would come to work if we didn't pay you.
Tana Amen: I know. I'm total sweat equity. I don't know what that's all about, but anyways. I love what I do.
Dr Daniel Amen: So if you push too hard, they push back.
Tana Amen: That's just a teenager anyways, so now you add-
Dr Daniel Amen: No, it's not.
Tana Amen: But now you add a hot brain-
Dr Daniel Amen: That's not true. They've actually done studies-
Tana Amen: Well, a little bit of that is normal.
Dr Daniel Amen: They've actually done studies, and a third of teenagers never have a problem.
Tana Amen: No, I'm not saying it's a problem.
Dr Daniel Amen: Another third of teenagers periodically will. And another third of teenagers, and my guess is he's fitting in there, they have a problem all the time.
Tana Amen: But I'm-
Dr Daniel Amen: Because their brain is not optimized. And so if you can get him to understand from a neuroscience perspective ... and that's where our high school course was just so powerful, is we actually had kids. Nobody cut the class ever. We had kids crashing the class, because they wanted to learn about their brain.
Tana Amen: Because it was cool.
Dr Daniel Amen: Now, I have no idea if this is true, but if you have an Overfocused kid, odds are one or both of the parents are Overfocused too. So if you're really worried, and you're push, push, pushing, I would tell you think more like hit and run. Give him a little bit of information and then back off. As Tana said earlier, live the message. Now, there's no rule that you have to go out and buy the M&Ms and the Captain Crunch and all of that. Absolutely not.
Tana Amen: But don't freak out if they do.
Dr Daniel Amen: But you want to be a good coach.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: And one of our favorite parenting books ... we have one. It's called New Skills for Frazzled Parents, which I dearly love. It's what I taught for a long time. And also another one, Love in Logic. Parenting Teens with Love and Logic is really excellent just to give you some of those skills. And, you know, push comes to shove, you can bring him to one of the clinics and let us get a look, because often seeing their brain makes a huge difference in helping them want a better brain.
Tana Amen: Yeah. A lot of teenagers I've seen radically change how they do things.
Dr Daniel Amen: My goodness, we're running out of time.
Tana Amen: Oh!
Dr Daniel Amen: From Karen. I ordered Neurolin. Will this be effective supplement combo for Ring of Fire, Limbic, and Overfocused? Again, just for FTC reasons, I can't tell you what to do. My experience is really helpful for Ring of Fire. That's actually why I developed it in my niece who had a Ring of Fire. Who oh, by the way, just graduated from law school. Passed the bar. I was very proud of her. So for those three types in that combination, yes, that would be one of the ones I would think about as well. GABA Calming could also be helpful [crosstalk 00:08:17].
Tana Amen: Is that the one you've been trying to slip into my tea.
Dr Daniel Amen: I take the Fifth Amendment.
Tana Amen: Right. I know. See, I like being a little high-strung. My husband loves when I take that product. So we're a little at odds on him wanting me to be really mellow and calm, 'cause he's really mellow and calm. I don't think that's ever going to happen. I saw you kind of slip it in my tea. I know.
Donny Osmond: Thanks for listening to today's show. The Brain Warriors Way. Why don't you head over to That's, where Daniel and Tana have a gift for you just for subscribing to the show. And when you post your review on iTunes, you'll be entered into a drawing where you can win a VIP visit to one of the Amen clinics. I'm Donny Osmond, and I invite you to step up your brain game by joining us in the next episode.