Nutrition for your Adolescent

The phenomenal growth that occurs in adolescence, second only to that in the first year of life, creates increased demands for energy and nutrients. Total nutrient needs are higher during adolescence than any other time in the life cycle. Adolescents have typically been considered a low risk group for poor health, and often receive few healthcare resources and scant attention. However, this approach ignores the fact that many health problems later in life can be improved or avoided by adopting healthy lifestyle habits in adolescence

Importance of Good Nutrition for Adolescents

  1. Achieve full growth potential
  2. Achieve adequate linear growth
  3. Avoid delays in sexual maturity
  4. help prevent adult diet-related chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis

Approximate caloric requirements for males

Source: info.emergencehealthnetwork.org

Source: info.emergencehealthnetwork.org

Approximate caloric requirements for females

Source: info.emergencehealthnetwork.org

Nutritional Requirements for Teens

Carbohydrates: Basic source of energy. The make it possible for the body to have energy for normal processes without breaking down the muscles for energy. Therefore, as much as they have earned an undeserved bad reputation, they are essential sources of energy. Choose healthy carbohydrates like whole grains like maize, rice, pasta etc and natural starches like sweet potatoes, plantain . Teens need around 5- 10 servings of carbohydrates per day. A serving= ½ cup rice or maize or potatoes, 1 medium chapatti, etc

Protein: These work as sources of energy as well as to build muscles and cells,therefore they are also important to ensure healthy physical growth. Teens need around 5-7 servings of protein per day. Serving= ¼ cup cooked beans, meat/fish/chicken Palm-size etc. Great and healthy sources of protein are lean meats, eggs, fish, milk, beans, lentils, green-grams.

Fruits and Vegetables: These are sources of energy as well as of essential vitamins and minerals that protect the body against infections. Teens should get a minimum of 2-4 cups of vegetables per day. Fruits are calorie dense too, so teens should have between 2-3 cups of fruit per day.

Fats and Oils: These are a source of energy and they also work to protect organs from damage and also to facilitate the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Teens need around 5-10 tsp of fat per day. Choose healthy fats i.e., not saturated e.g., olive oil, sunflower oil, fish oils etc. They can also have nuts as snacks as these also provide essential polyunsaturated oils that are great for health and help lower levels of LDL cholesterol. A handful of 30 groundnuts should do.

Common Nutritional Issues in Adolescents

  • Inadequate and unhealthy eating habits
  • Eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa
  • Under nutrition: Stunting, Thinness
  • Micronutrient Deficiencies
  • Obesity and its risks
  • Early pregnancy and associated risks

Assisting your teenager to make healthy decisions about food and their health

  1. Provide nutritional information : Give healthy food information to your teens, right from childhood and early teen years. It will be easier to reinforce these healthy habits in your teens if education was started long before. Provide health books, nutrition magazines and promote interest in health shows.
  2. Ensure the availability of quick, convenient, nutrient-rich snacks. Make healthy food readily available and visible in the house. It is easier to choose the healthier food when it is clearly visible to your teen. On the contrary, avoid stocking the fridge and kitchen with unhealthy food options like pizzas, sodas, crisps, sausages etc. Stock healthier options like youghurt, milk, pre peeled fruits, pre washed vegetables. If it is in the fridge, store in clear bags for ease of spotting.
  3. Provide opportunities to practice making healthy choices. Involve your teens in the weekly grocery shopping and give them a chance to decide what to buy for the house. Discuss the options at hand. Let them pick an item and assess for themselves whether it is healthy or not; if not healthy, suggest a healthier option. Involve your teens in meal preparation;give them a chance to decide which fruits or vegetables or carbohydrate should be accompanied by what. (This helps them achieve independence in decision making when it comes to food choices)
  4. Model healthy eating habits. Children and teens are more likely to copy what you do, so if you are teaching and encouraging healthy eating habits, it will not be much of a struggle if you are also doing the same, that way you learn as a family and you offer each other support.
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