Healthy Diet for Adolescents 12 to 18 Years of Age
What is a healthy diet for adolescents?
- Children normally have a growth spurt during their adolescent years (12 to 18 years old). A healthy diet for most adolescents (ad-o-LES-ents) is one that provides enough nutrients for growth. A healthy diet also has the right amount of nutrients to keep an adolescent healthy and keep him from having health problems. A poor diet may lead to health problems such as anemia (ah-NEE-mee-uh) (decreased oxygen going to body tissues), eating disorders, or obesity (o-BEE-si-tee) (being overweight). A poor diet may cause other health problems later in life such as obesity, heart disease, or diabetes. Regular physical activity can lower your child's risk of having some of these health problems.
- A healthy diet for adolescents should include different kinds of foods from all the food groups. Meals should have enough protein (such as meat, beans and nuts) to help your child grow. Meals should also have carbohydrates (kahr-bo-HI-drayt) (bread, pasta and cereal), fruits, and vegetables. Meals should also include dairy products such as milk and cheese. The kinds of foods your child eats should be high in vitamins and minerals. Your child's diet should also be low in fat and sugar. Eating foods that are low in fat and sugar can help your child stay at a healthy weight, and decrease his risk of health problems.
What foods should my child avoid eating and drinking? Encourage your child not to eat a lot of fast food and convenience foods. These foods are high in fat and sugar. Some examples of fast foods and convenience foods are hamburgers, french fries, pizza, potato chips, candy and soda. These high fat, high sugar foods may replace healthy foods if your child eats or drinks them too often. For example, adolescents may drink a lot of soda and not drink any milk. Your child may not get enough calcium if he does not drink milk or eat other dairy foods. High fat, high sugar foods may also cause your child to eat too many calories. Eating too many calories may cause your child to become overweight. Plan and pack healthy foods if your child eats meals and snacks away from home.
What should my child eat and drink for a healthy diet?
Breads, cereal, rice, and pasta: Eat six to eleven servings each day.
- One slice of bread, small roll, or 6-inch tortilla.
- One-half of a cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta.
- One-half of a hamburger bun, English muffin, or bagel.
- Three to four small crackers.
- One ounce or about one-half of a cup of ready-to-eat cereal.
Vegetables: Eat three to five servings each day.
- One-half of a cup of cooked or chopped, raw vegetables.
- Three-fourths of a cup of vegetable juice.
- One cup of leafy green raw vegetables such as lettuce or spinach.
Fruit: Eat two to four servings each day.
- One whole fruit such as a medium banana, apple, or orange.
- One melon wedge, one-fourth of a melon, or one-half of a grapefruit.
- Three-fourths of a cup of fruit juice.
- One-half of a cup of berries, or one-fourth of a cup of dried fruit.
- One-half of a cup of chopped or canned fruit.
Milk, yogurt, and cheese: Eat three servings each day.
- One cup of milk.
- Eight ounces of yogurt.
- One and one-half ounces of natural cheese.
- Two ounces of processed cheese.
Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts: Eat two to three servings each day. One serving equals two to three ounces of a protein food such as:
- Two to three ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish.
- Two teaspoons of peanut butter.
- One egg (eating two eggs counts as one serving).
- One cup of cooked dry beans.
What are some other guidelines for a healthy diet?
- Your child still learns from your eating habits. Teach your child about a healthy diet by setting a good example. Buy healthy foods for your family. Encourage your child to eat regular meals and snacks even if he is busy. Eat healthy meals together as a family as often as possible. You may also need to help your child plan his meals and snacks by packing a lunch. You could also suggest that he eat at restaurants that have healthy food choices. Praise your child's good food choices whenever you can.
- Adolescents may want to follow a new fad diet (popular diet) if they see their friends or famous people following these diets. These diets may not have all the nutrients your child needs to grow and stay healthy. Dieting too often may also lead to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (an-oh-REK-see-ah) (ner-VO-sa) and bulimia (bu-LE-me-ah) nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is refusal (not wanting) to eat. Bulimia nervosa is binge eating followed by throwing up, using laxative medicine, fasting (not eating at all) or heavy exercise. You should talk with your child about the reasons why eating a healthy diet is important. Talk with your caregiver if you are worried about your child's eating habits.
Is physical activity important for my child's health? Physical activity is very important to your child's health. Physical activity can help your child to reach a healthy weight. It can also lower his risk of certain health problems during his adolescent years and later in life. Adolescents should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days a week. You can help your child be more active by planning physical activities for the whole family.
Risks: Adolescents who do not eat a wide variety of foods are at risk of not getting enough nutrients. Many adolescents eat foods that are high in fat and sugar very often. High fat, high sugar foods may cause your child to become overweight or have other health problems. High fat, high sugar foods may also cause your child to not get enough nutrients. Dieting too often may cause adolescents to develop eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
You have the right to help plan your child's care. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.
© 2012 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.
The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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