There are some ‘helpful’ medical web pages on healthy eating plans for teenagers that try and tailor their diet advice to their younger audience but end up being rather simplistic, offering advice that pretty much relates to anyone and that you will have heard hundreds of times before:
- Cut down on fatty foods and sugar to lose weight and stay healthy
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
- Be sure to get your 5 a day
If so-called responsible adults find these standard pieces of advice difficult to stick to then there is little point in robotically relaying them to teens, especially when you have your own specific dietary issues to consider.
While it is true that there are many teenagers that are dangerously overweight and in need of guidance on nutrition and healthy eating, it can be just as dangerous to start endorsing specific diets. Dieting and any deliberate attempt to lose weight places a lot of stress on teenagers which is completely unnecessary, especially if you are already dealing with body confidence issues or peer pressure.
This is where eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia can rear their ugly heads. Dietary substitutions for better health, energy levels and general well-being are a much more beneficial approach.
Here we will try and teach you about some of the more helpful healthy eating habits for teens, such as key vitamins and minerals that you may have deficiencies in and meal planning, to give you some more practical advice.
Potential deficiencies that could affect a teenage diet…
- Vitamin D
Iron is a mineral that is especially important for teenage girls. Your teenage lethargy is not always a case of attitude, despite what some adults say, because many girls can feel run down due to a lack of iron. These levels can alter significantly during your menstrual cycle and this may be something that you are still getting used to.
Red meat is the traditional approach to increased iron levels but this isn’t always the ideal source if you are more drawn to processed meat and fast food than a prime cut of beef. There are breakfast cereals that are now forcibly fortified with iron, along with some other minerals and vitamins, but it might be worth simply supplementing a diet with iron tablets. As for that calcium for those growing bones, this is easily fixed with milk, yogurt and other dairy goods.
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Important Meal Planning For Teenagers
When you are a teenager you are at a tricky age; old enough to go out and buy all the unhealthy snacks and fast food you might want on a weekend or lunch break but young enough to still be at school and need some supervision with meals. If you have the focus and drive to enjoy the following healthy eating habits for teens, you can then enjoy a much healthier, more beneficial diet and hopefully see the rewards.
- A strong, energy rich breakfast
- A healthy lunch
- A balanced dinner
Breakfast can be tricky because many teens, yourself probably included, feel the urge to rush out the door without sitting down with their siblings but if you can start the day with a good breakfast you could not only take in many of those key nutrients mentioned above but also stop yourself from feeling tired and uninspired in the classroom.
It is important to be able to focus in your morning lessons to pass those upcoming exams and a simple bowl of fortified cereal or some yogurt and berries can make a surprising difference. Lunchtime is when you really have to be committed to this new regime because the school cafeteria is not always a haven of healthy eating.
Where possible, take a packed lunch so you can be sure of healthier options in your sandwiches and maybe some fruit. Also, try and get involved in that aspect of the food shopping so your parents can understand which foods are best for you and which you would actually enjoy eating – the more enjoyable a healthy eating diet is the easier it is to stick to.
This approach also applies to dinner and if you can try new vegetables and recipes with non-processed meats you can have a meal that is delicious, unusual and beneficial for your health.
Does This Mean no Junk Food?
Junk food and fast food are bad for you but if your goal is simply to eat healthier and ensure that you have a more balanced diet, a little bit is OK as long as you balance it with the good stuff. Some chocolate or crisps as a treat at the end of the school week is a nice little reward but on a daily basis they can mess up your energy levels and increase the chances of weight gain if you rely on them everyday.
Also, you don’t want to have to keep saying no if your friends all want to meet up and eat at a fast food joint. If they are keen to join you in your new healthy eating regime it could be fun to try out a different sandwich or salad bar but if they are set on the usual burgers and chips you could be slightly healthier by saying yes to the salad and gherkins, no to the cheese and swapping the sugary soda for juice or water.
A healthy teenage diet takes focus but it doesn’t have to be a punishment…
A successful healthy eating regime always comes down to discipline and a drive to see the benefits so it is best to focus on making changes where they are most practical, to try to make the new diet a bit more fun and not to be too hard on yourself.
If you work at this approach to energy-rich meal planning, get more involved in food choices and cooking and make small changes with the nutrients you take in and the fast food you eat, you should find that healthy eating plans for teenagers are both manageable and beneficial.