Teens have so much to worry about among school, homework and their friends that they may not think twice about what they put in their mouths. But eating healthy as a teen can set the stage for good eating as an adult. Plus, a healthy diet offers a number of benefits to teens right now.
Since 1980 obesity rates in teens have tripled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This may be because most of the calories in a teen's diet come from calorie-dense foods such as sweets, pizza and soda. Healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are not only low in calories but also filling, which might make it easier for teens to keep their calorie intake balanced and help them maintain a healthier weight.
Making better food choices can also improve a teen's energy levels. Just like gas in a car, food is fuel for the body. When teens eat mostly junk food, their bodies may not run efficiently. Carb-containing foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are the body's preferred source of energy. In addition to the carbs, teens need B vitamins, found in foods such as whole grains, lean meats and leafy greens, to utilize the energy from the food they eat.
Eating regular meals, especially breakfast, may help teens do better in school. Students that eat breakfast have improved attention spans and concentration, and also tend to do better on tests, according to the website Nutrition411. People who eat breakfast also tend to eat healthier. Even if teens are short on time, they can still eat a healthy breakfast on the go such as a fruit smoothie or whole wheat bagel with peanut butter.
Help You Grow
What teens eat also affects their growth. The teen years are a period of rapid growth, with some teens gaining several inches in several months. Protein, iron, calcium and zinc are all important nutrients teens need to grow properly. Lean red meat, poultry, fish and beans, provide teens with protein, iron and zinc, while low-fat and nonfat dairy foods provide calcium. Including these types of foods in their diet might help teens meet their full height potential.
- NHS Choices: Healthy Eating for Teens
- Women and Children's Health Network: Teen Health: Eating Well and Feeling Good
- Better Health Channel: Eating Tips for Teens
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Childhood Obesity Facts
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
- MedlinePlus: B Vitamins
- Nutrition411: Breakfast Helps You Make the Grade
- Lucille Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford: The Growing Child: Adolescent