TEENS 14 TO 18 YEARS
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Begin by stepping back, taking a deep breath, and keeping your teen’s eating habits in perspective. Rather than worrying about snacks, focus on keeping the total diet healthy. The more you stress over junk food, the more desirable it may become to your teen. Healthy eating for teens usually means cutting down on treats while adding more nutritious foods.
Teens need to eat well for two main reasons. First, these years offer the best chance to build peak bone mass. Their bones are now at their strongest. Yet, research shows that most teens are not getting enough calcium to build strong bones. Osteoporosis, where bones become fragile later in life, could be the result.
Second, staying at a normal weight is important. Overweight teens are at risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. These conditions were once common only in adults. Healthy eating and exercise can help prevent weight gain. Remember, the good habits you encourage now can benefit your teen for a lifetime.
According to Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, most teens need the following numbers of servings from the four food groups.
A small amount (30 to 45 mL or about 2 to 3 tbsp) of unsaturated fat can be included each day. This type of fat may be found in cooking oils, salad dressing and soft non-hydrogenated margarine.
Your teen must eat enough to stay healthy, support physical activity, and grow and mature as well as possible. When it comes to nutritional needs, no two teenagers are alike. Consider the following:
Most teenagers need between 1800 to 3000 calories a day. Consider your teen’s nutritional and energy needs in choosing the right number and size of servings. For instance, inactive teens or those overweight and wanting to lose weight, need less energy and should eat the lower number of suggested servings. To get the right amount of nutrition without too many calories, they should choose low-fat, nutrient-rich foods from each food group.
Good nutrition is a shared responsibility between parent and teen. Although teens are greatly influenced by their peers, they still look to parents and other adults for direction. Although it may not seem like your kids are listening, you are still a role model. Talk about and demonstrate a healthy lifestyle that includes a taste for healthy food.
As a parent, you can teach your teen how to make wiser choices whether eating at home, school or in fast food restaurants.
While teens need to make their own decisions, you can encourage healthy eating by setting ground rules.
Prepare your teen to take on more responsibility for healthy eating by doing the grocery shopping together. This is a great way to begin passing on all the things you know about meal preparation. Teach your teen the basic layout of the store, how to make a shopping list, buy important basic items, select the freshest fruit and vegetables, read a label, buy a nutritious loaf of bread, and compare the cut and costs of meat.
Find an exercise you enjoy and do it for at least 30 to 60 minutes a day. Exercise increases your energy level, helps you cope with stress and anxiety, and boosts self-esteem.
Cooking is an essential skill that everyone must learn. Teach kitchen basics, like how to cut an onion, heat frozen vegetables, peel potatoes, make rice, open a can of salmon, and cook ground meat. As well, teach proper hand washing, how to wash dishes, and how to take out the garbage. Teach your teen how to make these simple meals:
Does your daughter line up for an ice cream bar and diet coke every lunch hour? It may be time to gently remind her that eating well increases energy and mental performance, and helps keep blood glucose stable for an afternoon of learning. If your teen is supplementing her homemade sandwich, at the very least recommend milk or chocolate milk rather than pop. Although chocolate milk does have a little extra sugar, it contains all of the calcium, protein and nutrients of regular milk. In the cafeteria, the best bets are whole-grain bread sandwiches or pitas. If your teen craves a substantial lunch, recommend choices like pasta, a chicken or veggie burger, stir-fry, salad, chili with a roll, and milk.
Thanks to the media, teens are more aware of health issues related to a diet based on fried fast foods. A steady diet of fast food can lead to struggles with weight, high cholesterol, diabetes, and potential heart disease.
Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, published in 2007
Helpful fact sheets are available from Dietitians of Canada
Most fast food restaurants offer healthy main course choices and provide nutrition information by request or on a web site. Inform your teen that the smaller choices on a menu are healthier than larger ones. Suggest that your teen share large meals with friends.
Best bets are thin-crust vegetarian pizza, plain burgers, grilled chicken burgers, and sub-style sandwiches with lean meat or chicken. (Avoid salami, sausage, tuna salad and gyros.) Mustard, extra veggies and vinaigrette are betterchoices than the fatty ‘special sauces’ and mayonnaise. Salads are a great option, but make sure your teen asks for low-fat dressing. Otherwise, the meal will have as many calories as a fat-laden burger.
Encourage your teen to choose nutritious beverages, such as milk, water, 100 per cent juice, or chocolate milk.