Adolescent Nutrition

Eating healthy is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and is something that should be taught at a young age. The following are some general guidelines for helping your adolescent eat healthy. It is important to discuss your adolescent's diet with his/her physician prior to making any dietary changes or placing your adolescent on a diet. Discuss the following healthy eating recommendations with your adolescent to ensure he/she is following a healthy eating plan:

  • Eat three meals a day, with healthy snacks.
  • Increase fiber in the diet and decrease the use of salt.
  • Drink a lot of water.
  • For growing children and adolescents, it is generally recommended to watch total fat consumption in the diet, rather than counting calories.
  • Eat balanced meals.
  • When cooking for your adolescent, try to bake or broil instead of fry.
  • Make sure your adolescent watches (and decreases, if necessary) his/her sugar intake.
  • Eat fruit or vegetables for a snack.
  • For children over 5 years of age, use low-fat dairy products.
  • Decrease the use of butter and heavy gravies.
  • Eat more chicken and fish.

Healthy eating during adolescence is important as important body changes during this time affect an individual's nutritional and dietary needs. Adolescents are becoming more independent and making many food decisions on their own. Many adolescents experience a growth spurt and an increase in appetite and need healthy foods to meet their growth needs. Adolescents tend to eat more meals away from home than younger children. They are also heavily influenced by their peers. Meal convenience is important to many adolescents and they may be eating too much of the wrong types of food (i.e., soft drinks, fast-food, processed foods).

Further, a common concern of many adolescents is dieting. Girls may feel pressure from peers to be thin and to limit what they eat. Both boys and girls may diet to "make weight" for a particular sporting or social event.

The following are some helpful considerations as you prepare meals for your adolescent:

  • Arrange for teens to find out about nutrition for themselves by providing teen-oriented magazines or books with food articles and by encouraging them and supporting their interest in health, cooking, or nutrition.
  • Take their suggestions, when possible, regarding foods to prepare at home.
  • Experiment with foods outside your own culture.
  • Have several nutritious snack foods readily available. Often times, teenagers will eat whatever is convenient.
  • If there are foods that you do not want your teens to eat, avoid bringing them into the home.

Healthy food choices

The food guide pyramid is a guideline to help you and your child eat a healthy diet. The food guide pyramid can help you and your child eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services have prepared the food guide pyramid to guide parents in selecting foods for children 2 to 6 years of age. Choose the proper number of servings from each food group for your child each day.