Important Nutrients for Teens
Healthy eating means getting the right balance of nutrients your body needs each and every day. There are specific nutrients your body requires during adolescence. Make sure to focus on getting the following nutrients daily:
Adequate calcium levels are important for developing strong bones. More than one-third of your adult bone mass is deposited during adolescence. Inadequate calcium intake during your teen years puts you at risk for developing osteoporosis later in life. The recommended amount of calcium is 1,200 mg every day. Low fat dairy products (such as milk and yogurt) are good choices to make up the difference.
During adolescence, both boys and girls need adequate amounts of iron to support their rapid growth. During growth spurts, iron helps new muscle cells obtain oxygen for energy. The recommended amount of iron for girls is 15 mg per day and for boys is 12 mg per day (girls need a little more iron to account for menstrual losses). Iron deficiency causes anemia leading to fatigue, weakness and decreased learning ability.
You can implement healthy behaviors to help with short and long term weight control. To help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, the following behaviors are important:
One of the reasons obesity has become such an alarming problem is because serving sizes are often 2 to 4 times what they ought to be. This "portion distortion" leads to a passive over consumption of calories -- in other words, you are consuming calories without even knowing what you are eating. (See Portion Sizes). Did you know that restaurant portions are now 2 to 4 times the size of standard serving sizes? Keep this in mind: Calorie content increases with portion size. Eating portion controlled meals effectively reduces total calorie intake -- and helps maintain weight loss results.
Take note of serving sizes on product packages. Consider for example, a 200 calorie, 20-ounce bottle of non-diet soda that lists 2.5 servings on the package: Since the calories listed on the package are per serving, you will have consumed 500 total calories by drinking the whole bottle -- which is equivalent to 5 Meals!
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast gives you the energy you need to start your day off right and helps you focus and learn in school. It also helps to jump start your metabolism. Studies show that individuals who do not eat breakfast have a lower metabolic rate compared to those who do.
5 or 6 Small Meals for Best Meal Frequency
Research shows that eating "three square meals" each day is really not the best method of weight control. Instead, eating every 3 hours (when we normally experience physiologic hunger) is ideal. Eating frequently keeps you feeling fuller during the day, and prevents dips in blood sugar that may lead some individuals to binge eat. With your busy schedule, ready-to-go meal replacements are a convenient option to help ensure you eat regularly (and properly) throughout the day.
Eat slowly! That way, your stomach can signal your brain that it is full. It takes 20 minutes for the "full signal" to reach your brain, so take time to enjoy every bite. Notice your food's flavor and texture as you eat. Limit your eating while doing other activities such as watching TV, so you remain aware of the quantity of food you are eating. Chewing each bite of food 15 to 20 times helps slow down the eating process, and allows you to savor the flavor of your food more. See also: Mindless Munching or Mindful Eating?
Drink Lots of Fluids
Drink at least 6 to 8 cups of water each day. In addition, you may drink up to 16 ounces of any non-caloric (calorie-free) beverage including unsweetened iced tea, herbal tea, coffee, diet soda and calorie free drink mixes such as Crystal Light or Sugar Free Kool-Aid.
Eat More Meals at Home
Research has demonstrated that the more meals you eat in the home (or take to school after preparing at home), the greater success you will have with weight loss. Limit your restaurant outings (especially those involving fast food establishments) as much as possible.
Review your current eating habits and identify where small changes might lead to healthier eating. For instance, can you cut back on drinking sweetened sodas or add more fruits and vegetables to your diet?
Next, try to identify potential "barriers" to your success and consider ways to overcome them. Become aware of "eating triggers" and "success saboteurs" and stay away from them. For example, do you go to a fast food place after school every day with your friends? Replace the fast food with another activity. Instead of giving in to peer pressure, find friends who are supportive of you and your goals.
Keep a food diary
Keeping a food diary makes you aware of your daily eating habits. Track what, how much and how frequently you eat. Note if you have eaten "off-plan" foods, and also which food items you may be over consuming. Keep a food diary or journal on your laptop, PDA or in a brief case or paper notebook.
Eat fruits and vegetables each day
Five servings of fruits and vegetables can help keep you healthy when consumed as part of a well-balanced and nutritious eating plan. Not a fan of fruits and vegetables? Do 5 servings sound like a lot? Getting in 5 servings each day is really not that hard! Here are some ideas:
- Slice bananas or strawberries on top of your breakfast cereal
- Have a salad with lunch
- Eat carrot sticks for an afternoon snack
- Stir some fruit into low fat yogurt
- Blend fruit and low fat yogurt with ice for a great smoothie
- Eat fruit cocktail with lunch
- Add a vegetable (or two!) to your dinner
- Eat fresh fruit as a mid-morning snack
Try just half of these yummy suggestions and you have gotten in your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables!
You may also find of interest...
- Health Tips for Vegetarian Teens (Fitness)
- Vegetarian Diet Variations
- Health At Every Size
- Weight Lifting for Youth (Blog Post)
Disclaimer: The material on this Web site is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or fitness professional. Please consult with your physician before beginning any fitness program or fat or weight reduction program. FitnessandFreebies.com takes no responsibility for individual results, or any claim made by a third party.