Nutrition for Teens

by Garreth Myers

Proper nutrition is very important during the teenage years. The extent of growth and development during this stage is significant which is why it is so important for a diet for teens to meet these nutritional requirements. Teens between the age of 15 and 18 years will be on the verge of becoming adults and will be undergoing their final growth spurt. Girls will develop extra layers of fat, while boys will gain in muscle and the volume of blood will also increase. Most often, girls start experimenting with diets due to the weight gain. On the hand, boys may eat constantly to satiate their ever-growing appetites. Both of these are extreme behaviors and may contribute to health problems down the road if not addressed appropriately.

The best way to begin healthy eating is to ensure that the diet consists of a variety of foods. Select different foods from the various food groups so that the body gets its adequate fill of nutrients. Foods that must form a part of the daily diet for teenagers include fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy products, whole grains, poultry, meat, eggs, dried beans and nuts. Today even teenagers are forced to keep up with the pace of a hectic life. Pressure from educational institutions has increased and most teenagers also spend lots of time preparing for college or jobs. Sports and extra-curricular activities also take up a large part of their time and energy. This often leads to eating on the run. Fast food is easily available everywhere and most teens tend to snack on these junk foods when they get together or go out. Snacks such as fries, chips, burgers and pizzas are loaded with fat and salt. Snacks such as cookies, cakes and doughnuts supply a huge amount of fat and sugar to the body. Such foods are difficult to resist and hence need not be excluded from the diet completely. However their consumption must be monitored closely. Consuming too much fat and cholesterol leads to an elevation in blood cholesterol levels and can increase the risk of heart problems in the long term. Excess fat consumption can also lead to unhealthy weight gain. It is recommended that calories obtained from fats should not cross 30 percent of total calories. Also, out of that 30 percent, only about 10 percent should come from saturated fats. Reduce fat consumption by opting for skinless chicken, lean meats and fish. Also, go for low fat milk and dairy foods. Eating out takes place regularly among teens. It is also possible to exercise healthy eating at restaurants by choosing dishes that are baked or broiled instead of fried. Opt for more salads but cut down on the high-fat dressings.

Sodium is necessary in the diet as it helps to regulate water levels in the body along with potassium. However excess intake of sodium may lead to elevated blood pressure levels. Processed foods are packed with sodium and hence consumption of these must be reduced. Salty snacks such as potato chips and pretzels are best eaten in small quantities. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and dietary fiber which is necessary for proper bowel movements. Girls and boys require a higher intake of iron during ages 11 to 18. Iron may be obtained from foods such as fish, meat and poultry. Nutrition for teens also consists of calcium intake so that bone development continues properly. Teens that are concerned about their weight should consult a family member or the school doctor. Teens that are overweight should incorporate a moderate amount of exercise in their daily routine. Teens that are underweight should increase consumption of healthy foods to prevent problems arising out of malnutrition.

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