Does your 13-year-old avoid food in an attempt to lose weight? Many teenage girls avoid food to get the celebrity size-zero figure. However, they fail to realise that consuming less calorie than required could make them lethargic and lazy.
During puberty, children, especially girls, would want to change their eating habits. This can be a result of peer pressure, mood swings or any other influencing factor. It is essential for parents to oversee their teenager’s eating habit as it plays a major role in determining her health as an adult.
It is important to maintain adequate amounts of calorie in her diet as consuming less or more calories than required may prove detrimental to her health. Girls in their early teenage years require more calories than adults. For instance, a girl between 13-15 years of age requires 2330 Kcal as compared to the 1900 Kcal requirement for girls above 18 years.
For girls involved in sports and other outdoor activities, parents should make sure to include natural sources of calories like avocado, coconut milk, whole wheat and dry fruits rather than ice creams and chocolates. Also, it’s important to maintain a balance of nutrition and consider the overall nutritional value of food items consumed rather than only calorie requirements.
Not maintaining a healthy diet in teenage years may lead to various health complications in women in their early 20s. Cutting off meals in the day and crash dieting to maintain a slim figure can result in symptoms like weakness, body ache, low blood pressure and anaemia. Parents should inculcate healthy food habits in their children early on. They should educate their child about the benefits of having fruits and vegetables.
How can parents inculcate healthy eating habits in girls
Be a role model
By being a positive role model for your growing child, you may set an example of healthy dietary habits. Make sure that you show your child that healthy eating is important to you and how it helps you in achieving overall well-being. For example, try not to skip breakfast and discuss with your child healthy eating options
Create a healthy food environment
Encourage your child to take charge of food preparations by recommending food items and involving them in food shopping. Also, try to ensure healthy food options at home rather than processed food.
Make healthy eating fun
Instead of discussing about the negatives of eating unhealthy emphasise on the importance of eating healthy. Teach your child to eat whenever he/she is hungry and to not supress their hunger at any time.
For more information on calorie requirement for girls of different age groups, click the article below.
Risks of unhealthy eating habits in children
1. Eating too much: Gorging on unhealthy food items puts your child at the risk of obesity. This increases the risk of diabetes, sleep apnoea and joint problems when they turn adults. Also, they are more prone to developing heart diseases and cancers if their dietary habits are not monitored at early teenage years.
2. Not eating enough: Crash dieting and following the slim diet fad can lead your child to develop serious health problems including fatigue, poor concentration and loss of bone and muscle density. In some cases, prolonged dieting can lead to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
Parents should ensure that their child does not:
• Diet repetitively
• Binge eat
• Exercise heavily
• Avoid food regularly
A recommended teenage girl’s diet should include a nutrient-dense diet focussing more on vitamin and minerals, and less on fats and calories.
3. Restricting diet: In some cases, children would restrict their diet owing to dislike for certain food items or under external influence. Parents should keep their teenagers diet in check and make sure that they get enough minerals and vitamins to maintain a healthy body weight. For instance, a poorly planned diet for vegetarian kids over an extended period of time may result in iron deficiency. This can be hazardous especially for girls who have just entered their menstrual cycle.
The author is a nutritionist at Columbia Asia Hospital, Bangalore.