Eat, sleep, repeat

Greater independence, decision making and understanding foods in relation to health and wellbeing is challenging for most teenagers.  A poorly planned diet is unlikely to meet  nutritional needs for the growth spurt that occurs somewhere between 11 and 17 years.   Most teenagers think very little about a healthy balanced diet, whilst others are overly invested in their dietary choices.  Gastrointestinal problems in particular may have their roots in poorly planned choices, and equally may be as a result of emotional stress or physiological development. Of course teenagers reject parental advice on eating a diverse and balanced diet, as they do on many other issues.  By continuing to show your teen, through your own behaviour, what eating a healthy diet is, they will have the knowledge to re-establish this once they are over their rebellious phase.

Massive growth spurt

Teens go through their growth spurt sometime between 11 and 17 years, peaking at 12 ½ in girls and 14 in boys. During this massive growth spurt, bone length and height increase rapidly.  Even when adult height is reached, teen bones continue to increase in density and strength.  Calcium and Vitamin D are one of the most important vitamin and mineral combinations needed to support skeletal growth with 50% of the skeleton being formed during those years.

Girls teen challenge

Girls in particular have low intakes of a range of nutrients including Vitamin A, iron, calcium, zinc, folate and iodine. Teenage girls are more likely to strive to keep weight low by eating less, and typically have lower physical activity levels than boys. Around half teenage girls have very low intake of iron and 7% have signs of iron deficiency anaemia, particularly high once menstruation starts.

Junk food is simply food of low nutritional quality

teenage nutritionFast food needn’t be junk food and time can still be taken to eat it!  Sitting down and taking time to chew foods helps digestion and satiety; allowing the brain time to process the fact that food has been eaten.  Carefully chosen, it can be a valuable part of a balanced diet. If you are selecting foods that are mostly freshly-prepared, limiting deep fried or sugar-ladden foods and choosing vibrant colours and variety – you are likely to be getting a balance. Examples of fast food with good nutritional content include meat or vegetarian pizza, burgers, sushi, kebabs with salad, chicken fajitas, falafels with hummus.