The teen years are a time of immense growth, change and development, when nutrition remains important but meals and snacks often become rushed, irregular or heavy on fast food and vending-machine junk food. Teenagers are busy, and don't always have time to sit down for three well-balanced meals and healthy snacks, each day. However, kids this age need the right nutrients for healthy growth, appropriate portion sizes for weight control and enough high-quality calories to keep them energised all day.
Eat a nutritious breakfast every day, such as a simple, on-the-go breakfast like a bagel spread with peanut butter or a carton of yogurt and a banana. These provide important nutrients while taking little time to prepare and eat. Many teenagers skip breakfast in favour of extra sleep, but in reality, teenagers need morning fuel to gain energy and focus well at school.
Focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products. Emphasise foods high in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and low in saturated fat, added sugar, added sodium and cholesterol to create healthy, high-nutrient meals. The elements of a healthy teen diet are primarily the same as any other nutritious meal plan.
Include healthy snacks, such as part-skim string cheese, frozen grapes, pretzels, baby carrots, low-fat yogurt, cherry tomatoes and whole-grain crackers. According to MayoClinic.com, replacing even one junk-food snack per day with a healthier choice can be helpful.
Avoid high-fat and high-sugar foods, like candy bars, soda, chips, French fries, doughnuts and cookies as much as possible. These foods may provide a rush of quick energy at first, but won't power a busy teen through a demanding schedule of school, sports, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs and social plans. While there's no need to ban all low-nutrient treats completely, limit them to once or twice a week to prevent excess weight, low energy or other health problems.
Tips and Warnings
While good nutrition is important, regular exercise is also critical for teen health. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, and include both cardiovascular and strength-training exercises for optimal health. Consult your family physician or your family doctor for detailed guidance regarding nutrition, diet, weight and adolescent health.