Nutrition guide for teenagers: the teen years are an important stage in human development. Be sure to have proper nutrition to help your body grow.
In the teen years, nutrition is very important. But it is also a time when getting proper nutrition is not always easy. Because of the big changes that are going on in your body, the way you decide to deal with your nutrition needs now can make a big difference not only in how you feel today, but also in your well-being in years to come.
If you are between 15 and 18, you’re completing your final major growth spurt and on your way to becoming an adult.
For girls, this means adding some fat padding. For boys, it means adding muscle and increasing the volume of blood. These changes often encourage girls to diet unnecessarily to stay slim, while boys may overeat to satisfy their appetites. Both can lead to health problems down the road, and, incidentally, probably will not do the job you want right now.
So what is the right approach to healthy eating?
A good start is to eat a variety of foods, as suggested in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. Get the many nutrients your body needs by choosing a variety of foods from each of these groups:
· breads, cereals, rice, and pasta
· milk, yogurt and cheese
· meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, eggs, and nuts.
The pace for teens is fast and getting faster. Added to pressures from school to prepare for college or a job, many teens take part in sports and work part-time. This often means eating on the run. Stack that on top of the snack foods you eat on dates or when you get together with friends, and you may not be taking in a balance of nutrients.
Many snacks, such as potato chips, fast-food cheeseburgers, and fries, have high levels of fat, sugar or salt–ingredients that are usually best limited to a small portion of your diet. Healthy eating doesn’t mean that you can’t have your favorite foods, but the Dietary Guidelines advise you to be selective and limit the total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium you eat. Our main source of saturated fat comes from animal products and hydrogenated vegetable oils, with tropical oils–coconut and palm–providing smaller amounts. Only animal fat provides cholesterol. Sodium mostly comes from salt added to foods during processing, home preparation, or at the table.
Fats are our most concentrated source of energy. Scientists know that eating too much fat, especially saturated fat and cholesterol, increases blood cholesterol levels, and therefore increases your risk of heart disease. Too much fat also may lead to overweight and increase your risk of some cancers.
Dietitians recommend that no more than 30 percent of your calories come from fats, and not more than 10 percent of these calories should be from saturated fat. Choose lean meats, fish, poultry without skin, and low-fat dairy products whenever you can. When you eat out, particularly at fast-food restaurants, look for broiled or baked rather than fried foods. Try the salad bars more often, but pass up creamy items and limit the amount of salad dressing you use to keep down the fat and calories. Look for milk-based high-calcium foods with reduced fat.
A moderate amount of sodium in your diet is necessary, because sodium, along with potassium, maintains the water balance in your body. But for some people, too much sodium can be a factor in high blood pressure. Since processed foods often contain large amounts of sodium, it’s wise to use salt sparingly when cooking or at the table–and to avoid overeating salty snacks like pretzels and chips.
Whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans and peas, vegetables, and fruits contain various types of dietary fiber essential for proper bowel function. Eating plenty of these fiber-rich foods may reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.
The benefits from a high-fiber diet may be related to the foods themselves and not to fiber alone. For this reason, it’s best to get fiber from foods rather than from the fiber supplements you can purchase in a store.
The need for iron for both boys and girls increases between the ages of 11 and 18. The National Academy of Sciences recommends teenage boys get 12 milligrams of iron a day, mostly to sustain their rapidly enlarging body mass. For girls, the recommended daily requirement is 15 milligrams to offset menstrual losses that begin during this time.
It’s important to plan how to get adequate iron in your diet. Iron from meat, poultry and fish is better absorbed by your body than the iron from plant sources. However, the absorption of iron from plants is improved by eating fruit or drinking juice that contains vitamin C with the iron-rich food.
Teens need extra calcium to store up an optimal amount of bone (called peak bone mass). The richest sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products. Building optimal bone mass through a balanced diet, including adequate calcium, may help delay the onset or limit your chances of developing osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a disease in which reduced bone mass causes bones to break easily. It occurs in both men and women, but is more common among older women.
Some teens have a difficult time projecting a healthy weight for themselves. Girls especially may think they need to be thinner than they are, or should be. Extraordinary concern or obsession for thinness leads some teens to the eating disorders of anorexia nervosa (dieting to starvation) or bulimia (overeating and then vomiting If you’re concerned about your weight, it’s important to talk to a health professional such as your family doctor or the school nurse. That person can help you decide whether you do need to lose weight and, if so, the best way to achieve and maintain a weight that is healthy for you.
If health professionals recommend that you need to lose weight, most experts say it’s best to increase your exercise as the first step. Often that’s all teens need to do for weight control because they’re rapidly growing. If eating less is also necessary, it is best to continue eating a variety of foods while cutting down on fats and sugars.
Skipping meals to lose weight is a poor idea. You’re likely to overeat at the next meal just because you’re so hungry. And surveys show that people who skip breakfast or other meals tend to have poorer nutrition than those who don’t.