Six Ways to Help Your Teen Eat Healthy
Did you know that second to infancy, adolescence is the most critical time for nutritious eating? As busy as teenagers can be, monitoring their healthy eating habits can be quite the challenge (compared to the days when you could secure them in a high chair until they ate all their peas and carrots).
The fact of the matter is teens are busy. They have school, friends, activities, work; it’s hard to keep up. This makes it an even more crucial time to encourage healthy eating habits and understand the importance of how to maintain a well-balanced diet even with so much going on.
Here are a few tips to help encourage healthy eating:
1. Model good nutrition.
Actions speak louder than words; model healthy eating habits. Encourage your teen to shop with you as well as help with the meal planning.
2. It’s okay to say no.
When it comes to junk food, if you don’t buy it they can’t grab it. Packaged foods in particular are poor in nutrients and loaded with hydrogenated fats. Also avoid buying pop, which is full of sugar, artificial colorings and chemicals that reduce calcium which bones need to grow.
3. Think like a teen.
Teens want to grow. “Talk up” foods that help encourage healthy growth such as calcium-rich foods. In turn, take the opportunity to remind teens that soft drinks rob them of nutrients needed for bone growth which may interfere with the growth process. Not to mention how important healthy nutrients are for healthy skin!
4. Know what teens need.
Specifically, teens need more calcium, iron, protein and zinc. When entering adolescence and during phases of rapid muscle growth, males need around 20 percent more iron, 25 percent more protein and 33 percent more zinc. Girls need around 33 percent more iron once they begin menstruation, less protein than males and 20 percent more zinc. Both males and females need around 33 percent more calcium than pre-adolescents or 1300 mg calcium per day, which is about 3 to 4 ounce glasses of low fat milk or 3 to 4 ounces of yogurt.
5. Get more vitamins.
Adolescents in general show at least a 20 to 30 percent increase in daily requirements of nearly all the vitamins as they grow from pre-teens to adolescents. Although it’s best to obtain the vitamins and minerals needed through food rather than supplements, the nutrient-poor eating habits of most teens suggests that a daily multi-vitamin supplement would be suggested.
6. Fiber is your friend.
Most teens aren’t getting nearly enough fiber in their diet resulting in common complications such as lower abdominal pain, bloating and constipation. They need about 30 gm of fiber per day. Sources can come from fruits and vegetables (apples, strawberries, celery, sweet potatoes, etc.), high fiber cereals and even high fiber breakfast bars. By increasing fiber in their diet, teens will also have a longer sense of feeling full in between meals, which means less snacking on junk food and less hunger pains.