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Parents of teens, here is why it is important for your child to have a nutritious diet

Ashwin Dewan Ashwin Dewan 7 Mins Read

Ashwin Dewan Ashwin Dewan


Do you often worry that your teen is not eating healthy food? Does his habit of eating processed or junk food bother you? Read on to find out if your worry is justified

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Parents of teens, here is why it is important for your child to have a nutritious diet

There is an old saying that goes 'you are what you eat'. What your teen eats can have a positive or negative impact on his quality of life. Good nutrition is very important during the growing-up years to support your child's overall growth and development.

According to the Dietitians Association of Australia, the teenage years are a critical period of growth and development for which good nutrition is required. During the adolescent years, the need for essential nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals increases along with an increase in appetite. This makes it imperative to give foods that are healthy to your teen. This article takes you through the nutritional requirements for your teen and tells how you can help him eat better.

The need for a nutritious diet

During teenage years, children start experimenting with food and they are tempted to eat processed and fast foods like burgers, pizzas, fries, etc., which can contribute nothing to their health and instead, are full of unhealthy fat, sugar, and salt. They lack nutrients like vitamins and minerals, which teens require, especially during growth spurts.

Thus, there is a need to give healthy nutrient-rich foods to your teen during this period. One way to do this is to feed them a diet rich in:

  • A variety of vegetables including legumes
  • Different fruits
  • Whole grains foods such as bread, cereals, pasta, noodles, oats, and barley
  • Lean meats, eggs, fish, nuts, and seeds
  • Milk, yogurt, and cheese

Body image issues

You might see a change in your child's eating habits during her teen years. Her food choices might change and the amount of food she consumes might change. This is perfectly normal. However, one thing you need to be aware of is that your teen might face body issues leading to changes in her eating habits and getting fewer nutrients in the process.

Teenagers grow and develop at different rates. Being overweight or underweight can be a concern for many teens. Some teens may find it difficult to adjust to these changes in their bodies and develop unrealistic expectations with regards to how their bodies should look. As a result, they take to fad diets, dieting, eating less food, or eliminating essential foods required during the growing up years. You should try to make them realize the dangers of such actions and make them understand the importance of eating food rich in nutrients.

Main nutrients a teen needs during the growing years

Growing teens need lots of calories to support their rapid growth and development. According to the website Healthy Children, boys require an average of 2,800 calories per day while girls require an average of 2,200 calories per day. Let us look at some important nutrients a teen needs during the growing years.

1. Fat: Nowadays, teens consume too much fat. The diet of teens should contain no more than 30% of calories as total fat and 10% calories as saturated fat. It does not mean you should completely banish fats from your teen's diet for fats have a role to play in the proper functioning of the body.

Sources: Nuts, fatty fish, whole eggs, dark chocolate

2. Protein: Protein plays an important part in a teen's growth as the body needs protein for every crucial function. According to NDTV, boys require around 60 g of protein per day while girls require 55 g of protein per day.

Sources: Lean milk, beans, eggs, soy, seafood

3. Calcium: Since half of the skeletal growth happens during adolescence, large amounts of calcium are required during the teenage years. The Center for Young Women's Health says teenagers between the ages of 9 and 18 should try to consume 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day.

Sources: Yogurt, milk, cheese, sardine, broccoli

4. Iron: Iron plays a key role in growth. Iron is essential for the proper distribution of oxygen throughout the body. If your teen does not get enough iron, it may result in a condition of iron deficiency called anemia. Children aged 9-13 years need 8 milligrams of iron per day, says KidsHealth.

Sources of iron: Red meat, seafood, beans, iron-fortified cereals.

How to help your teen develop healthy eating habits

Proper nutrition is very important for growing teens. As a parent, you should do all you can to ensure your teen makes correct food choices and follows healthy eating habits, which will enable her to get all the essential nutrients required for her development.

We look at some ways you can help your teen follow a healthy eating habit.

Be a positive role model

Children look up to their parents as role models. Take the lead in showing them the benefits of following a healthy eating habit. Some of the various ways you can do this are to always eat breakfast, choose healthy food options, avoid junk food and opt for nutrient-rich food.

Avoid junk or processed food

The teen period is one where teenagers try out a variety of foods and this includes junk and processed foods. They relish biting into a burger, enjoying a slice of pizza, and drinking a soda on the side, little realizing the ill-effects of these foods on their health. Packaged foods like chips and tinned foods are equally bad as they are nutrient-poor and loaded with hydrogenated fats. Be firm and say no to your teen's demands for junk and processed foods.

Try to talk about different foods

Emphasize all the good things about healthy eating and why nutrients are good for your teen's health. Teach your child about different foods and how food might help improve academics, sports and general well-being.

Involve your child in planning meals

If you involve your teen in the meal-making process, it might be beneficial for him as he might understand the importance of nutrients. Take him grocery shopping and so he can get to choose different foods and, in the process, learn the connection between good food and good health.

Limit the use of unhealthy foods at home

During their growing up years, teenagers are always hungry and looking for food in the house. You can try certain things to ensure your child finds foods that are healthy and high in nutrients.

Keep a bowl of fruit or chopped vegetables in the fridge, wholegrain bread in the oven, or a bag of wholegrain crackers in the cupboard.

Risks of unhealthy eating habits in teenagers

Unhealthy eating habits can lead to many health issues in teenagers. Eating much, eating less, or restricted eating can prove harmful to your child's health and growth.

Some risks of unhealthy eating in teens include:

1. Obesity

Irregular eating hours, skipping meals, overeating, drinking sugary beverages can lead to weight gain over a period eventually leading to obesity in teenagers. Obesity puts a teen at risk of many health conditions including high cholesterol, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.

2. Inadequate nutrition

When teenagers go on a fad diet, they start cutting down on their food intake. This may result in them not getting enough nutrients as they normally should for their healthy growth and development.

In cases of severe dieting, teenagers can suffer from health problems like fatigue, poor concentration and loss of muscle mass.

3. Ill effects of restricted eating

Teens may often indulge in selective eating, which means they may eat only certain foods, which may prove detrimental to health. For instance, if your child follows a dairy-free diet, he may miss out on valuable vitamins, minerals, and vitamin D.

Nutrition is essential for all human beings. Try to inculcate healthy eating habits in your teen from an early age so he can reap the benefits of it throughout life.

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