Healthy eating during adolescence

What is healthy eating?

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 well. It is important to discuss your adolescent's diet with his or her physician prior to making any dietary changes. Discuss the following healthy eating recommendations with your adolescent to ensure he or she is following a healthy eating plan:

  • Eat three meals a day, with snacks between meals when hungry.
  • Drink water rather than drinking juice, soda, or other sweetened beverages.
  • Eat balanced meals- use MyPlate (pictured below) as a guide.
  • When cooking for your adolescent, try to bake or broil instead of fry.
  • Include a variety of foods each day.
  • Fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy make good snacks.
  • Include "good" fats in your daily intake: nuts, peanut butter, oils (olive, safflower), and avocados are a few examples.
  • Encourage your adolescent to eat without distractions from the TV, computer, or video games.

Making healthy food choices:

The MyPlate, designed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services, is a good guideline to help you and your adolescent eat a balanced and nutritious diet. The MyPlate can help you and your adolescent eat a variety of foods while encouraging the right balance of nutrients.

Choose My Plate picture

Healthy eating during adolescence:

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-a good resource is
  • 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.
  • Encourage your adolescent to help prepare foods for family meals.
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