"I want to eat a healthy diet, but it's impossible with my schedule. I never have time for breakfast. I always get 3 slices of pepperoni pizza for lunch and 2 cartons of chocolate milk. I grab a candy bar, chips, and a soda from the machine after school. Then I heat up something for dinner around 9:00 PM when I get home from work, or I stop by McDonald's," says Adam, age 16.
Most teens are on the fast track as they balance school, work, extracurricular activities, friends, and family responsibilities. Teens can be aware of what a healthy diet requires, understand its importance, desire to have it, yet find it too difficult to work into their busy schedules. However, it can be done!
Most teens know which foods are good and which are bad. However, to help kids develop healthy eating patterns, parents should encourage an overall healthy diet, one made up of mostly good foods, but that has room for some indulgences as well. The good foods, which teens should try to increase their intake of, include the following:
Those foods considered bad, and which teens should try to limit their consumption of, include soda, candy, and other sugary foods, and foods high in saturated fat or trans fat, such as full-fat dairy products, fried foods, processed snack foods, butter, and margarine.
Both the food and the enjoyment kids get out of preparing and eating meals can help enhance the appeal of healthy eating. Here are some guidelines to help get your teens on track:
Skipping breakfast is a big mistake, but busy teens often do it.
"I don't have time," "I'm not hungry," "I'd rather sleep," or "I hate breakfast food" are just a few of the excuses teens use to avoid eating in the morning. Breakfast is essential for a healthy diet.
These tips may help teens to work this important meal into their busy schedules:
Today, more than ever, we have an enormous array of healthy—and even exotic—foods from which to choose. Encourage your teens to try new foods:
Most kids like cereal, smoothies, pasta, and sandwiches. Here are some ideas for boosting the nutrition in these foods:
Teens are often trying to exert their independence and take some control over their lives—so let them do it in the kitchen! Here are some ideas:
Because of their busy lifestyles, teens' diets need to be tailored to their schedules.
Most teens on the run are running low on the nutrients they need to fuel their active lifestyles. As your teenagers continue to make more independent choices, encourage them to establish healthy eating habits that will benefit them in the future.
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Choose My Plate—Department of Agriculture
Choosing healthy snacks. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Choosing-Healthy-Snacks.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed March 17, 2016.
NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 12, 2013. Accessed March 17, 2016.
Smart snacking. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/healthy_snacks.html. Updated September 2015. Accessed March 17, 2016.
Tips to help you eat fruits. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruits-tips. Updated January 7, 2016. Accessed March 17, 2016.
Tips to help you eat vegetables. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables-tips. updated January 12, 2016. Accessed March 17, 2016.
Tips to help you eat whole grains. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruits-tips. Accessed March 17, 2016.
Tips to help you make wise choices from the protein foods group. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods-tips. Updated January 21, 2016. Accessed March 17, 2016.
Tips to help you make wise choices in the dairy group. Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy-tips. Updated June 26, 2015. Accessed March 17, 2016.
What are oils? Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate website. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/oils.html. Accessed July 13, 2012.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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