Virginia Reece, MS
"I want to eat a healthy diet, but it's impossible with my schedule. I never have time for breakfast. I always get three slices of pepperoni pizza for lunch and two cartons of chocolate milk. I grab a candy bar, chips, and a soda from the machine after school. Then I heat up something for dinner around 9:00 PM when I get home from work, or I stop by McDonald's," says Adam, age 16.
Most teens are on the fast track as they balance school, work, extracurricular activities, friends, and family responsibilities. Teens can be aware of what a healthy diet requires, understand its importance, desire to have it, yet find it too difficult to work into their busy schedules. However, it can be done!
Most teens know which foods are "good" and which are "bad." However, to help kids develop healthy eating patterns, parents should encourage an overall healthy diet, one made up of predominately "good" foods, but that has room for some indulgences as well. The "good" foods, which teens should try to increase their intake of, include the following:
Those foods considered "bad," and which teens should try to limit their consumption of, include the usual suspects—soda, candy, and other
sugary foods, and foods high in
saturated fat or trans fat, such as full-fat dairy products, fried foods, processed snack foods, butter, and margarine.
Both the food and the enjoyment kids get out of preparing and eating meals can help enhance the appeal of healthy eating. Here are some guidelines to help get your teens on track:
Skipping breakfast is a big mistake, but busy teens often do it.
"I don't have time," "I'm not hungry," "I'd rather sleep," or "I hate breakfast food" are just a few of the excuses teens use to avoid eating in the morning. Breakfast is essential for a healthy diet.
These tips may help teens to work this important meal into their busy schedules:
Today, more than ever, we have an enormous array of healthy—and even exotic—foods from which to choose. Encourage your teens to try new foods:
For example, most kids like cereal, smoothies, pasta, and sandwiches; here are some ideas for boosting the nutrition in these foods:
Teens are often trying to exert their independence and take some control over their lives—so let them do it in the kitchen!
Because of their busy lifestyles, teens' diets need to be tailored to their schedules.
Most teens on the run are running low on the nutrients they need to fuel their active lifestyles. As your teenagers continue to make more independent choices, encourage them to establish healthy eating habits that will benefit them in the future.
American Dietetic Association
Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition
NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated February 28, 2012. Accessed July 12, 2012.
Smart snacking. Teens Health from Nemours website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/healthy_snacks.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Tips to help you eat fruits. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/fruits-tips.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Tips to help you eat vegetables. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-tips.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Tips to help you eat whole grains. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/grains-tips.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Tips to help you make wise choices from the protein foods group. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/protein-foods-tips.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Tips to help you make wise choices in the dairy group. ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/dairy-tips.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
What are oils? ChooseMyPlate.gov website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/oils.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Last reviewed July 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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