As obesity continues to be a hot topic in America, healthy eating has become increasingly important in American culture, and that has impacted the way we eat. And especially during the teenage pubescent years, proper nutrition is crucial to this process; it is imperative to remember that teens have different nutritional needs than adults while their bodies are going through so many changes that impact their physical and emotional well being.
Nutrition in many schools has been completely changed to encourage better eating habits among students by providing more nutritious lunch options and in some cases, also providing nutrition education as part of the curriculum. As a result of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, schools made changes to nutrition programs and began serving “smart snacks” on school campuses, and created “standards for competitive foods and beverages sold outside of the federal reimbursable school meals program during the school day.” New standards were set on what snacks the school could provide, getting rid of items like donuts and regular soda, in favor of smarter options such as granola bars, fruit and milk.
The William S. Hart School District follows strict guidelines which are in place to provide students with nutritious meals that are balanced and aim to limit the calorie, sodium, fat, and sugar intake. Students need proper nutrition not only to live more healthy lives, but also be more productive in school. For example, the Center for Disease Control found that “eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved cognitive function (especially memory), reduced absenteeism, and improved mood.” Additionally, providing students with well balanced nutrition has been shown to also improve test scores. Teaching teens that having proper nutrition, is vital to their success, well-bring, growth and development is an absolute must. Supporting healthy eating habits at home is an important component for teaching teens how to get proper nutrition, and encourages them to maintain good eating habits when they go out with friends. Teaching these lessons at an early age, sets the stage for a healthier adulthood.
How can families promote good eating habits and nutrition for teens at home? First and foremost, LEAD BY EXAMPLE.
Kids learn from their parents, both good and bad behaviors; it is your responsibility to make good choices for them to model, so you too, have to be ready to drink one less soda, especially if you are asking for your child to do it.
Deciding as a family to incorporate more exercise and better eating habits is a great tool to get everyone involved from the beginning; allow your teen to participate in the process and help design a “new plan” for a healthy future.
Here are some tips:
- Having family meals has been proven to promote healthy eating habits. It is also proven to improve a child’s vocabulary and reading skills, as well as lead to higher grades and academic achievement. (Incorporate some our conversation starters at dinner, and have great talks while enjoying a delicious meal.)
- Eat breakfast every morning. People that eat breakfast every morning are less likely to snack throughout the day, and get more vitamins and nutrients over the course of the day. Starting out the day with a healthy breakfast, allows kids to stay focused in class, rather than listening to their stomach growl!
- Incorporate more fruits and veggies into your teen’s diet. Homemade smoothies are a great way to sneak in a few extra fruit and dairy products, that your teen might otherwise shy away from.
- Serve appropriate portions at meals, and include fruits, veggies, grains, dairy and protein in every meal. Choose My Plate is a great resource that teaches you about healthy portions of different food groups, and other tips for eating right.
- Encourage your teen to be active. Children and teens should be getting at least 60 minutes of exercise a day.
- Have healthy snacks around the house, and limit processed foods. Instead of chips and candy, give your teens fruits, veggies and whole grains.
- Cook at home, and get your teen involved. Home cooked meals have less calories than meals eaten outside of the house. Cooking with your teens will help them learn about well-balanced nutrition, as well develop their pallet for different types of foods. Maybe suggest themed dinners; create some trivia about Spain and then cook a authentic Spanish meal? Educational and healthy!
- Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda. Invest in reusable water bottles, and always keep them full!
- Fast food restaurants are offering “healthier options”, so if you need a quick bite, you don’t have to deviate from nutrition. And if you decide to get a burger and fries, opt out of the “super size”, which only add extra calories.
- Read food labels and learn what is in the food you eat. A great resource is www.eatright.org/nutritiontipsheets
For more information on nutrition and teenagers visit