More than 17 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 19 are overweight, according to the Weight-Control Information Network. Carrying more weight than your body needs increases your risk of developing adultlike diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, while you are still young. Restricting your intake, or dieting, is not the solution. Making changes to your diet by following healthy nutritional guidelines can help you feel better and improve your health now and later on.
Fruits and Veggies Daily
Make fruits and vegetables a part of your diet every day. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber and essential nutrients. The fiber in fruits and vegetables offers a number of health benefits. Fiber takes your body longer to digest, so it keeps you feeling full longer. Fiber also improves bowel function, preventing constipation. And, although it may not be a concern for you now, including more high-fiber foods in your diet lowers blood cholesterol levels. Try to get 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables in your diet each day for good health.
Calcium for Bone Health
Getting enough calcium in your diet is especially important during your teen years because it helps promote bone health and strength. Teens need 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day. Milk is a good source of calcium with nearly 300 milligrams in an 8-oz. serving of nonfat milk. Yogurt and cheese are also good sources of calcium. If you're not a fan of milk or dairy products, you can also get calcium from fortified soy milk, tofu, salmon with the bones, kale and broccoli.
The Power of Protein
Adequate intakes of protein also support growth, along with helping to preserve lean muscle mass and promote immune health. Teens need 5 to 6 ounces of protein-rich foods a day. Meat, poultry and fish make good choices. But the 2010 dietary guidelines recommend that you vary your protein choices to include more nuts, seeds and beans to increase your nutrient intake.
More Whole Grains
Grains are an important source of energy for your busy life. Most of your grain choices should be whole grain to maximize your nutrient intake. Whole grains are also a good source of fiber. Not only does fiber help control appetite, but it also provides a more sustainable source of energy. Try to get at least 6 ounces of grains in your diet each day. Healthy choices include whole-grain bread, whole-grain cereal, brown rice, oats, whole-wheat pasta and popcorn.
Choose Healthy Fats
You may associate fat with weight gain, but fat in the diet is also an essential nutrient. It provides your body with energy and helps you absorb essential nutrients. However, fat is a concentrated source of calories, so you need to be careful about how much you eat each day. In addition, some fat choices are better than others. Teens should limit total fat intake to 25 to 35 percent of calories. When choosing added fats, include more canola oil, olive oil or vegetable oil for better health.
- Helpguide.org; Nutrition for Children and Teens; Maya W. Paul and Lawrence Robinson; February 2011
- Weight-Control Information Network; Take Charge of Your Health: A Guide for Teenagers; August 2009
- Office of Dietary Supplements; Calcium; January 2011
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 -- Food and Nutrients to Increase