Proper nutrition is about consuming various kinds of healthy foods in the right proportion. Giving your adolescent children proper nutrition involves the following:
Understanding Nutrition Terms
We encounter certain words and phrases when we talk about food, such as:
A serving is the amount of a food or drink that is served at mealtime. These are often mentioned in nutrition labels on food packages.
Calories are energy units you get from the things you eat. When your teens eat more calories than what the body needs, the extra calories are stored as fat. On the contrary, when they don’t consume enough calories, your teens will not have enough energy and be skinnier than the average person. Different foods have different amounts of calories – you can tell the caloric content of a type of food or meal by using calorie counters or by reading its food label.
These are the substances that our body needs to be healthy. We usually get nutrients from food and water.
Protein is very important for a teenager because it helps him/her grow and it repairs damaged body cells, tissues, and organs. This substance is found in meat, milk, and soy.
These are energy-providers and are derived from fruits, wheat, and grain. Sweets also contain carbohydrates but they’re not healthy – too much sugar can cause diabetes so limit your teen’s sweet tooth indulgences.
Unlike what is commonly believed, fats should not be totally eliminated from the diet because some types of fat are important for our bodies. Fat protects internal organs, beautifies hair and skin, and is crucial to some processes in the body. Fish, plant oils, and nuts are good sources of healthy fats, while food containing trans fats and saturated fats can clog up arteries.
There are many kinds of minerals that perform unique body functions. Teens need more of these minerals: calcium from milk and dairy products to help their bones grow, iron from meat, dark and leafy veggies, and shellfish to make up for the iron lost during a girls’ menstrual flows, and zinc from meat, shellfish, cereals and nuts to ensure the proper development of their sexual organs. Your teen can also get minerals from supplements.
Different vitamins have different roles. For example: Vitamin A induces good eyesight, Vitamin B helps protect the heart, Vitamin C enhances the body’s illness resistance, Vitamin D and K build teenagers’ rapidly growing bones, and more. These are available from different kinds of food and multivitamins.
The 3 Types of Food Groups
Type 1 – Go Foods (carbohydrates)
They provide energy to a teen’s body and make them ‘go’. Adolescents who don’t eat enough go foods are sluggish. Examples of carbohydrates include rice, bread, and cereals.
Type 2 – Grow Foods (proteins)
They are responsible for the growth of muscle, bone, and other body tissues and they repair damages to these. Teenagers who don’t get enough protein are usually short and they heal slowly. Examples of food that contain protein include meat and dairy products.
Type 3 – Glow Foods (vitamins and minerals)
This food group powers up the body’s ability to prevent diseases. Glow foods also make teenagers’ skins give off a healthy glow – and because teens value appearance, be sure to give them plenty of glow foods. Examples of those types of foods include fruits and vegetables.
Your teen should have the above three kinds of food groups in every meal. This will ensure a ‘balanced diet.’ A health-conscious teen who regularly maintains a balanced diet is more likely to satisfy his/her nutritional needs.
Your Teen’s Food Guide
When planning what to eat, consider the following guidelines:
- Oily, fatty, salty, and sweet kinds of foods: sparingly or no more than a spoonful per day.
- Dairy (milk, cheese, and yogurt): 3 servings per day (about 3 cups milk/yogurt daily or 6 ounces of cheese a day)
- Meat (pork, beef, chicken, etc.), eggs, nuts, and beans: 2 to 3 servings per day. (total of 6 to 7 ounces of this food group daily)
- Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings per day. A serving amounts to a cup of veggies. (total of 4 to 5 cups vegetables per day)
- Fruits: 3 to 4 servings per day. One serving of fruit equals one fruit. (total of 3 to 4 fruits daily)
- Bread, pasta, rice, cereal, whole grains: 9 to 11 servings per day (total of 3 bread slices or 3 cups of pasta/rice/cereal/whole grains per day)
Teenagers require 2,600 to 2,800 calories daily. The rule of thumb is that boys usually need more food than girls, but it also depends on how active your teenager is. When your teen is more active than usual, give him/her more food that is within the food guide pyramid’s recommended range.
Your teen may have food-related problems such as the following:
- Being overweight
- Having diabetes at birth or developing it when he/she grew up.
- Lacking in nutrition (because of self-starvation, illnesses, diets, etc.)
- Displaying eating disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia, etc.)
- Coping with digestive diseases (Irritable Bowel Syndrome, excessive flatulence, chronic diarrhea, etc.)
- Refusal to take a certain food (due to intolerance, allergies, pickiness, etc.)
In case of these, consult a dietician so that you can formulate the most ideal meal plans for your adolescent. He may carry out some medical tests to accurately diagnose the concern and be given appropriate nutritional treatments.