Teens with bad eating habits are more likely to suffer from obesity, fatigue, nutrient deficiencies and poor cognitive and physical performance at school. The Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that 16 percent to 33 percent of kids and teens are obese, and teens within this weight category are more likely to become overweight adults. Teenagers with poor eating habits can reduce obesity risks by boosting physical activity and making dietary changes.
While some teens simply make unhealthy food choices, others overeat -- or undereat -- because of stress, anxiety or depression. The publication "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010" suggests that moderately active and active teen boys need 2,200 to 3,200 calories daily, while girls with the same physical activity category generally require 2,000 to 2,400 calories a day to maintain healthy weights. According to a report published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2010, boys given access to a lunch buffet consumed almost 2,000 calories during lunchtime alone.
Teens who consume excess sugar have an increased risk of becoming overweight, developing nutrient deficiencies or getting cavities. A review published in 2008 in the “Journal of School Nursing” reports that in children, the odds ratio of becoming obese increases 1.6 times for each sugary drink added to their diets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most U.S. teens consume 40 percent of their calories from added sugars and unhealthy fats and drink more soda than milk. Encourage your teen to drink water or low-fat milk instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda and lemonade.
Refined Vs. Whole Grains
Teens with bad eating habits may choose refined grains -- such as white bread, sugary cereal, white rice and regular pasta. Encourage your teen to choose whole grains -- such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, quinoa and whole-wheat pasta -- which are more nutritious than refined grains. The CDC reports that most U.S. teens do not consume the minimum recommendation for whole grains, which is 2 to 3 ounces daily.
Making Healthy Food Choices
Help your teen pick a variety of fruits and vegetables; whole grains; low-fat dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and reduced-fat cheese; plant-based oils; and protein-rich foods like lean meats, skinless poultry, eggs, seafood, soy products, legumes, nuts, seeds and nut butters. According to "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010," a teen girl requiring 2,200 calories a day should consume 3 cups of veggies, 2 cups of fruits, 7 ounces of grains, 6 ounces of protein foods, 3 cups of dairy foods and 6 teaspoons of oils daily. A teen boy eating 2,600 calories per day needs 3 1/2 cups of veggies, 2 cups of fruits, 9 ounces of grains, 6 1/2 ounces of protein foods, 3 cups of dairy foods and 8 teaspoons of oils each day.
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Obesity in Children and Teens
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- Journal of School Nursing: The Role of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption in Adolescent Obesity: A Review of the Literature
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Summary
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Puberty and Observed Energy Intake: Boy, Can They Eat!