Healthy Eating for Teenagers
What’s It All About?
Adolescent nutrition is both an important and complicated issue. The rate of growth in adolescence is second only to the rate in infancy. Poor eating habits during the teen years may lead to both short- and long-term health consequences including obesity, osteoporosis, and sexual maturation delays. Take a look below for some suggestions to help teens get the foods they need.
Why Does It Matter?
- Too little food or the wrong food can affect sexual maturation and growth.
- Normal bone strength may never be reached and healthy teeth may not develop if a youth doesn’t get enough calcium.
- Poor dietary habits are related to obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.
- Studies have shown that heart disease can begin in childhood and progress into adulthood.
- Over-eating, under-eating and eating disorders can have devastating health impacts.
- Because each teen may be at a different phase of growth, a “one size fits all” approach to nutrition doesn’t always work. Adults need to be aware of a teen’s growth, and support healthy eating habits.
- Teens should eat frequent healthy meals and healthy snacks. Eating breakfast has been shown to help teens be more alert at school and perform better in sports activities.
What Are The Details?
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that most teen diets do not meet minimum recommendations because they lack grains, dairy, fruit and vegetables.
- A fourth of all vegetables eaten by teens nationally are in the form of french fries.
- Teens often do not eat enough food with iron, calcium, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamins A and C. According to the 2002 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey:
- Only about 1-in-4 8th graders and 1-in-5 10th and 12th graders report that they eat fruits and vegetables 5 or more times a day.
- More than a quarter of adolescents in 8th, 10th and 12th grade report drinking two or more sodas a day.
- About a quarter of Washington adolescents are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight.
- About 35% to 40% of students surveyed indicate that they are trying to lose weight. From 10% to 12% of 8th, 10th and 12th graders also report that they had fasted, taken diet medications without a doctor’s advice, vomited or taken laxatives to lose weight.
- Nearly a third of 8th graders and about half of 12th graders say that they do not usually eat dinner with their families.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Social and Health Services.
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