Teens and Nutrition
Most parents make sure that young children eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. But teens often eat out, making many food choices on their own. You may be concerned about the types of food your teen eats. By following the tips provided here, you can help your teen make healthy food choices while respecting his or her growing independence.
- One in 5 teens is overweight.
- Overweight teens are more likely to be overweight adults.
- Many teens, especially girls, do not eat enough foods with calcium.
- Many teens do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.
- Teen athletes need to eat more foods high in iron and calcium.
- Many teens eat too many foods high in fat and sugar.
- Foods with iron include lean meats, chicken, apricots, iron-fortified breads and cereals, legumes and leafy green vegetables.
- Foods with calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, spinach, kale, rhubarb, calcium fortified soy milk, tofu and salmon with bones.
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Tips for Parents
- Ask teens to help plan meals, shop for groceries, cook, and bake. These activities get teens thinking about a balanced diet.
- Eat at least 3 or 4 meals together as a family each week. A family breakfast or weekend lunch may be most practical for some busy families.
- Encourage teens to eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day. Vegetable juices count!
- For stronger teeth and bones, encourage teens to eat foods rich in calcium at every meal and in between meals.
- Bring healthy foods home. Buy fewer foods high in fat and sugar and more fruits and vegetables.
- Keep a variety of fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, dried, and canned) in plain view. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the table. Cut up favorite vegetables and store them
- Be a good role model by eating right. Children adopt the eating habits of their parents.
- Encourage teens to eat breakfast. Bagels, cereal, fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat, high protein granola bars are quick and healthy breakfast foods for teens who are in a hurry. Breakfast should include a protein rich food such as egg, yogurt, milk, cheese, ham, turkey or breakfast soy products.
- Help teens build a positive body image. Make positive comments about your teen's efforts toward healthy behaviors such as walking or eating right. Do not focus on looks. Avoid criticizing your own body.
- Use the "Food Guide Pyramid" to help you and your teen make healthy food choices.
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Healthy snacking is good!
Snacking on nutritious foods between meals is good for teens because their growing bodies need more energy (calories) and nutrients. Some healthy, low-fat snacks are pretzels, bagels, graham crackers, rice or popcorn cakes, fruit, fruit or vegetable juice, low-fat tortilla chips with salsa, low-fat granola bars, raw vegetables with low-fat dip, low-fat yogurt, and sherbet.
© 2001, American Medical Association
Used by permission
Additional Outside Sources
Below is additional information and resources. Some are links to other Internet pages, which might have information on health topics of interest to you. PAMF, however, does not sponsor or endorse any of these sites, nor does PAMF guarantee the accuracy of the information contained on them.
- Your teen's health care provider.
- Adolescent Health On-Line. Accessed April 2012.
- American Dietetic Association. Accessed April 2012.
- National Agricultural Library. Food and Nutrition Information Center. Accessed April 2012.
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Intro to Nutrition
Wellness Assessment for Youth to Get Organized (WAY2GO!)
Obesity Fact Sheets on Healthy Youth, CDC Division of Adolescent and School Health
Personal Nutrition Planner, Dairy Council of California