Most teens are more obsessed with weight loss than getting a nutritious, balanced diet. They skip meals or eat nothing but carrot sticks and diet soda, or try all sorts of crazy weight loss programs to lose enough pounds for an important date.
However, it’s important for teens to get proper nutrition. Their bodies need the vitamins and minerals to fuel the growth spurt and all the physical and hormonal changes they are going through. Here is what teens need in their diet and some parenting tips for concerned moms who want to help but don’t know how.
Load up on healthy calories
According to the UK Food Standards Agency kids aged 11 to 14 need approximately 2,200 calories while kids aged 15 to 18 need approximately 2,775 calories.
However these shouldn’t be empty calories from Starbucks or burgers. Parents can help kids get the right nutrients by stocking up on complex carbohydrates (wholewheat bread, cereal); lean cuts of meat, chicken and fish; and vegetables. They can also teach teens sensible weight loss tips: eat regularly and sensibly, but control portions and limit fat and sugar.
Ban soda from the house
A can of regular soda contains the equivalent of about 7 ½ teaspoons of sugar – already about half the recommended daily intake for teenage boys and girls. Iced teas and fruit flavored drinks are also high on sugar.
Parents can explain this to teens, and offer healthier options like water (no calories!). If they crave a sweet fix they can get fresh juices or milk which are rich in nutrients and naturally sweetened.
Control fastfood intake
Burgers, pizza etc. are not only high in fat but are often flavored with high amounts of salt. However teens should only consume between 5-6 grams of salt daily which is about 1 teaspoon of salt. A small pack of chips already contains 0.5 g of salt!
One good parenting tip is to offer home-cooked versions of their favorites. You can still serve pizza or burgers but by making it at home you can control the salt and achieve flavor through natural seasonings and spices.
Emphasize the importance of calcium
Teens need about 1,300 mg of calcium a day. The body also loses calcium whenever they take caffeinated beverages like iced tea, coffee or soda. Encourage your child to drink milk (offer low-fat or skim milk versions if she is concerned about weight loss) and include high-calcium vegetables like green leafy vegetables in your meal plan.
Nutritionists use this simple formula for computing how much fiber you need in your diet: age + 5. A 15-year-old for example, should try to eat at least 20 grams of fiber every day. Foods that are rich in fiber can help lower blood cholesterol and prevent diabetes and heart disease. Fiber likewise leaves your teen feeling full, discouraging overeating.
Here’s a great parenting tip. Serve high-fiber breakfasts like cereal, whole grain bread and oatmeal so you know your teen gets the right amount of fiber a day.
Serve a variety of salads
IF your teen is really obsessed with weight loss than you can help her (and still get her to eat properly) by serving salads. Add plenty of fruits and vegetables and incorporate different types of dressings or toppings for variety. As a general rule teens need fruits and vegetables to comprise a third of their daily food intake.
Photo from blog.americanfeast.com