Healthy eating during adolescence is important as body changes during this time affect an individual’s nutritional and dietary needs. Adolescents are becoming more independent and making many food decisions on their own. Many adolescents experience a growth spurt and an increase in appetite and need healthy foods to meet their growth needs. Adolescents tend to eat more meals away from home than younger children. They are also heavily influenced by their peers. Meal convenience is important to many adolescents and they may be eating too much of the wrong types of food (for example, soft drinks, fast-food or processed foods).
Discuss the following healthy eating recommendations with your adolescent to ensure he or she is following a healthy eating plan:
- Eat three meals a day, with healthy snacks.
- Increase fiber in the diet and decrease the use of salt.
- Drink water. Try to avoid drinks that are high in sugar. Fruit juice can have a lot of calories, so limit your adolescent’s intake. Whole fruit is always a better choice.
- Eat balanced meals.
- When cooking for your adolescent, try to bake or broil instead of fry.
- Make sure your adolescent watches (and decreases, if necessary) his or her sugar intake.
- Eat fruit or vegetables for a snack.
- Decrease the use of butter and heavy gravies.
- Eat more chicken and fish. Limit red meat intake, and choose lean cuts when possible.
The following are some helpful considerations as you prepare meals for your adolescent:
- Arrange for teens to find out about nutrition for themselves by providing teen-oriented magazines or books with food articles and by encouraging them and supporting their interest in health, cooking or nutrition.
- Take their suggestions, when possible, regarding foods to prepare at home.
- Experiment with foods outside your own culture.
- Have several nutritious snack foods readily available. Oftentimes, teenagers will eat whatever is convenient.
- If there are foods that you do not want your teens to eat, avoid bringing them into the home.