Dt Roopshree Jaiswal, Consultant Nutritionist & Dietician, Motherhood Hospital, Indore.
During the teenage years, a healthy diet is important for growing children for their growth and overall development of their bodies. Since, at this age, children attempt to eat what they feel like and quite often do not pay much attention to nutrition and balanced meal. They prefer staying on junk foods instead of going for healthy and nutritious food as they are more influenced by their peer groups etc. The need for essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals increase during the adolescent years, along with an increase in appetite. This makes it critical to provide nutritious foods to your teenagers.
Teenagers develop and grow at different rates. Many teenagers are concerned about being overweight or underweight. Some teenagers may struggle to adjust to these changes in their bodies and develop unrealistic expectations about how their bodies should look. As a result, they resort to fad diets, dieting, eating less food, or avoiding essential foods required during childhood. You should try to make them understand the dangers of such actions, as well as the importance of eating nutrient-dense foods.
Thus, parenting plays a major role in guiding their children and looking after their diet. Teenagers should be encouraged for eating healthy and gradually understanding the difference between what is good for them and what isn’t.
It is important to include nutritious food like fruits and vegetables and whole grain such as cereals, oats, barley, and proteins like fish, nuts, and seeds and also include cheese, yogurt, and milk in the diet. It is important to include the following in the diet-
- Fat – Fats help in the proper functioning of the body. The diet should contain 30% of calories as fat and 10% saturated fats. Include nuts, fish, eggs, and dark chocolate.
- Calcium – it is required in skeletal growth during teenage. So consuming yogurt, cheese broccoli, etc, could be helpful in providing calcium to the body.
- Iron is important during the growing stage. It also helps to spread oxygen in the body. Thus, the intake of seafood, red meat, beans, and cereals are important.
If a nutritious diet is not taken, the child may face different problems such as –
- Obesity – this can be caused due to untimely eating, soft drinks, sugary foods, or eating too much junk. This can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart problems, or even type 2- diabetes.
- Lack of nutrition – In order to work on a fat diet, proper intake of nutrients gets hampered. This can lead to loss of muscles, fatigue, etc.,
- Side-effects of selective eating – Eating selective foods and avoiding dairy foods may lead to scarcity of valuable vitamins in the body.
To overcome these problems, parents of teens take the following steps-
- Encourage them to eat healthy foods.
Parents can encourage their children to eat healthy and have a nutritious diet. Discourage them to have junk food, sugary drinks, packaged foods as they have poor nutrition and contain hydrogenated fats.
- Engage your child in planning for the meal
Involving your teen in the meal preparation process may benefit him because he will understand the importance of nutrients. Take him grocery shopping so he can try new foods and learn about the relationship between good food and good health.
- Restrict the consumption of unhealthy foods at home.
Teenagers are always hungry and looking for food in the house during their growing up years. Keep a bowl of fruit or chopped vegetables in the fridge, a loaf of wholegrain bread in the oven, and a bag of wholegrain crackers in the kitchen. Ensure that whatever they eat is healthy and nutritious.
- Make an effort to discuss various foods.
Emphasize the benefits of healthy eating and why nutrients are beneficial to your teen’s health. Teach your child about different foods and how they can help them improve their academics, sports, and overall well-being.