The teen years are a time of heightened growth and development, a time when optimal nutrition is critical, and a time when our children’s bodies become adult-like. Yet, many teens have bad habits that sacrifice good nutrition!
Your teen’s diet and eating habits can contribute to hunger, tiredness, a lack of focus, weight gain, and disordered eating. Here’s how to turn those unhealthy teen habits into a healthy advantage:
Correct the breakfast balk
Breakfast is “the most important meal of the day,” giving a jump start to your teen’s metabolism, waking up the brain for learning, and setting the tone for hunger management throughout the day. Some teens don’t have the time to eat breakfast before they head out the door for school. Opt for a “grab-n-go” breakfast like these: a mixture of dry cereal, raisins, and nuts or a piece of fruit with a wedge of cheese. Teens can drink their breakfast too, with options such as fruit smoothies or milk-based breakfast drinks, both of which provide vitamins and minerals in addition to calories and protein.
Refuel with Lunch
Lunch provides the nutrients your teen requires to continue learning at school and also keeps hunger under control at the end of the day. When buying or packing a lunch, encourage your teen to select a variety of items from at least 3 food groups, such as dairy, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat or protein. Remember, brown bagging doesn’t have to mean a sandwich! Try microwaving a potato, sending a chef salad, or assembling whole grain crackers with lean deli meat and cheese at the lunch table. Round these entrees out with a piece of fresh fruit and a container of low-fat milk or yogurt. If buying lunch at school, check out the menu and plan food choices ahead of time. Chances are with a healthy lunch in his belly, your teen won’t come home and clean out your refrigerator and pantry!
Tiredness is a symptom of inadequate sleep, but can also represent dehydration. Be sure your teen is drinking about 2 liters of fluid per day and even more if he is playing a sport. A good rule of thumb: if your teen feels thirsty, he is behind on drinking fluids. Help your teen recognize thirst as dehydration and look for times during his day that fluid intake can be increased. The best fluid source is water!
Eat breakfast, refuel at lunch, and drink plenty of fluids. These are the strategies to keep your teen healthy, energetic, and getting the nutrients he needs to grow into a healthy adult.