Nutrition Tips for Teens
Obesity is a national health crisis in the U.S., with a surprising number of teens falling into that category. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that obesity is prevalent in approximately 20% of 12 to 19 year-olds, affecting certain ethnic and socioeconomic groups disproportionately.
Ideally, healthy nutrition habits should start in early childhood to lay the foundation for good lifetime habits. Like their adult counterparts, teenagers are busier than ever and often eat on the run in between activities. But a few tweaks and manageable lifestyle changes now could make a noticeable difference in adulthood.
Use the following tips to help yourself or the teens in your life stay on track for a healthy lifestyle.
- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. On the flip side, eliminate caffeinated drinks and limit sugary fruit juices.
- Eat a variety of lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, and lean beef. Protein is essential for muscle building. Other sources of proteins include nuts and nut butters, eggs, tofu and legumes.
- Like their adult counterparts, teens should aim for four to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Teens need iron for growth. Iron-rich foods include meat, spinach, whole grains, beans, and such iron-fortified products as breads and cereals.
- Calcium is another important mineral essential to the growth of teens. Make sure your teen drinks sufficient milk or consumes other calcium-rich foods, such as other dairy products, seeds, leafy greens, beans, soy or products fortified with calcium.
- Teens should eat three balanced and nutritious meals per day, along with several healthy snacks. Skipping meals is not advised, even if teens are trying to lose weight, because they could miss out on essential daily nutrients.
- Though most nourishment sources ideally should come from food, not everyone can obtain all of their vitamins and minerals that way. If you suspect your teen needs an additional boost, consider a teen-specific daily multivitamin. Consult with your physician or healthcare professional for guidance.
- As per the American Heart Association’s guidelines, daily sugar intake should be limited to 25 grams, or six teaspoons daily.
- Encourage your teen to pack lunch more often rather than buying school lunch. While many schools offer nutritious lunch options, packing lunch helps you stay in control of calorie intake and portions.
- Involve teens in meal planning, grocery shopping and dinner preparation. Kids who take ownership of what their family eats will enjoy being in the kitchen and will become more invested and aware of what they’re putting into their bodies.
- For extra nourishment as well as personal growth, plant a garden with your teen and have them help tend to it. Then encourage them to help prepare healthy recipes using the fresh vegetables they had a hand in growing.