Eating right

The teen growth spurt is one of the most dramatic changes that the human body experiences. To support this major change, the body requires increased calories and nutrients. Maintaining a healthy diet not only contributes to your physical growth, but it can also help you feel better, stay healthier, and perform better at school. Below is a list of quick tips to get you started:

  • Eat regular meals, especially breakfast.
  • Eat a variety of foods.
  • Get lots of calcium.
  • Choose fiber-rich foods.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Limit consumption of fast foods and junk foods.


Eat Regular Meals:

To meet the energy needs, teens should eat at least three meals per day: in the morning, afternoon, and evening with light snacks in between. This is the best way to maintain both energy levels and a healthy weight. When you skip meals and are overly hungry, you are more likely to choose foods that are not as healthy. Also, it is very important for you to eat breakfast! Studies show that eating breakfast can help you stay more alert at school and better able to learn and perform sports or other physical activities.


Eat a Variety of Foods:

A good start to a healthy diet is to eat a variety of foods. Get the different nutrients your body needs by choosing a variety of items from each of the following food groups:

  • Vegetables – Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice.
  • Fruits – Any fruit or 100% fruit juice.
  • Grains – Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or another cereal grain.
  • Milk, Yogurt, & Cheese
  • Meat & Beans: Including meat, poultry, fish, dried beans, peas, eggs, and nuts.


Calcium and Milk:

Calcium is the key building block for strong bones. Calcium intake is extremely important during the pre-teen and teen years when bones are growing the fastest. Lack of calcium will have a big impact on bones and teeth. The calcium need during teenage years is something that cannot be made up for later in life.

Milk contains a large amount of calcium in a form that the body can easily absorb. Milk also has other important nutrients that are good for bones and teeth. One especially important nutrient is vitamin D, which helps with calcium absorption. Most types of milk have approximately 300mg of calcium per cup (8 fluid ounces), which is about 25% of the calcium that children and teenagers need every day. The best choice is 1% low-fat or fat-free milk, which provides calcium without adding excess fat to the diet.

Other Sources of Calcium:

  • Low-fat or fat-free Yogurt
  • Calcium fortified orange juice
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Enriched or calcium fortified soymilk
  • Firm tofu made with calcium sulfate
  • Calcium-fortified cereals or breads
  • Dark green leafy vegetables


What if I cannot drink milk?

People with lactose intolerance have trouble digesting lactose, the natural sugar found in milk and dairy products. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include stomach pain, diarrhea, bloating, or gas within 15 minutes to several hours after drinking milk or eating other dairy products. The best way to eliminate these discomforts is to choose lactose-free milk and milk products. There are also over-the-counter products, such as Lactaid or lactase enzyme, that help to break down lactose.


What is Dietary Fiber and why do I need it?

Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body cannot digest or absorb. Unlike other food components such as proteins, carbohydrates, or fats that your body breaks down, fiber passes through your gastrointestinal tract almost unchanged. Fiber is best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. Eating plenty of these fiber-rich foods may also reduce your risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Fiber can also fill you up so you don’t eat as much. Various types of fiber can be found in whole-grain breads, cereals, dried beans, peas, vegetables, and fruits.


What are “Junk Foods”?

The term “junk food” usually refers to foods that are high in salt, sugar, fat, or calories and low in nutrient content. Major junk foods include salted snack foods, candies, cookies, most sweet desserts, fried or fast foods and carbonated beverages (soda).


Healthy and Tasty Snacks:

  • Dip strawberries or apple slices in low-fat yogurt.
  • Dip baby carrots and cherry tomatoes in low-fat dressing.
  • Blend soymilk with strawberries and a banana for a delicious smoothie
  • Mix together cereal, dried fruit and nuts in a sandwich bag.
  • Celery sticks with peanut butter, topped with raisins.
  • Mini-sandwich with tuna or egg salad on whole grain bread
  • Frozen yogurt topped with fresh berries.
  • Low-fat yogurt with crunchy granola
  • Dried cranberries and chopped walnuts in oatmeal.
  • Microwave a cup of tomato or vegetable soup and enjoy with whole grain crackers.


Where to learn more about smart food choices: