Healthy eating is important at every age but especially so for teens. Young people face increasing pressure related to body image and achievement, which can interrupt healthy eating habits. They may miss the nutrients needed for growth and development. Here are some guidelines to help your teen stay on track.
Make time for meals
Teens should have three healthy meals each day. That means getting up in time to have breakfast. Grab and go is fine as long as whatever they’re grabbing isn’t loaded with sugar and fat. Think a hard-boiled egg, Greek yogurt or apples, and peanut butter rather than doughnuts. Healthy choices give teens the calcium, vitamin D, protein and fiber they need.
Skip the soda
Reach for water instead of sugary drinks. Fruit juice, soda, and chocolate milk are popular among teens, but it is important to have balance. Enjoy these in moderation.
Choose snacks wisely
Choose pizza, burgers, chips, sweets and the like with the 80/20 rule in mind. Most, or 80% of the time, opt for foods that pack a big nutritional punch. These include complex carbs like quinoa, brown rice, steel-cut oats and farro; fruits and vegetables, beans, healthy fats, and some lean meats. There is no need to pile on the protein. Most teens girls need only about 46 grams and boys around 52 grams. Protein is helpful for promoting satiety and building muscle. Too much protein can potentially harm healthy kidneys. With the remaining 20% you can choose fun foods.
Whole dairy products are OK for some
Whole milk can be a healthy part of a balanced diet. New research has found that there are some benefits to whole dairy so if you have enough room in your calorie budget, go ahead and indulge.
Healthy fats support brain and heart health. Choose nuts, olive oil, Greek yogurt and avocados in balance with other foods to maintain a healthy weight.
Don’t forget iron
Iron supports growing teens. Good sources include spinach, beans, lentils, red meat, quinoa and pumpkin seeds.
Teens should also prioritize sleep. Aim for at least 8 hours most nights. Turn off technology an hour or so before bedtime to help you relax and wind down. Get adequate exercise, too. Find something you love and do it often. Hike, bike, skate, hit the gym…the key is to be active for your overall health. Nutrition is just one driver in healthy growth and development for teens. Pair it with adequate sleep and exercise and you have a winning combination for your health and well-being.