Do teenagers need to eat more or differently than adults? In short: yes. The teen years are a time of rapid body development and physical activity, so teenagers need a daily increase of calories, minerals, and vitamins. Teenagers have raging hormones and resultant mood swings, so it is important that they do not miss out on any of the vital nutrients they need. However, what teens should be eating doesn’t vary that much from adults: they still need to consume a healthy, balanced diet comprised of grains, vegetables, fruits, and proteins. The biggest nutrition challenge during the teen years isn’t that they need a special diet that differs from adults, but that they need help avoiding the many dietary pitfalls that can shape the formation of life-long, unhealthy eating habits. Let’s take a look at two of the major issues teens struggle with in terms of healthy eating:
- Junk Food: Teens are especially prone to overindulging in fast food and unhealthy treats. Gangs of teenager often congregate at McDonald’s and other fast food centers—junk food is a part of the social fabric of Teendom. Since teens have high metabolisms, coupled with very in the moment thinking, they cannot always see the negative impact that junk food has on their future and it is easy for them to form bad eating habits. As parent of a teen, you can mitigate teen junk food consumption by not falling into the junk food trap yourself—make your home a health food haven and model healthy eating habits—sooner or later, they will probably sink in for your teen.
- Weight worries: Many teenagers, particularly teenage girls, are extremely worried about their weight, and it is no wonder why: super skinny models and celebrities are everywhere, plastered across billboards and beaming out from TV screens. The teen years are a time when eating disorders are a risk, as teenagers are susceptible to peer pressure, low self-esteem, and an unsure sense of self. As a parent, be open and honest with your children about weight worries, and never under any circumstances comment on their weight in a negative way.
As you can see, there are many impediments standing in the way of teens developing healthy eating habits. Teenagers need guidance from their parents in all areas of life, including health and nutrition. As a parent, this means you have an obligation to your children to model healthy habits to your children so they can mirror them. Make sure that you plan meals that stay away from trans fats, sugars, and processed junk food. Make it a priority to have a home that is focused on wellness and nutrition—it will benefit everyone in the long run.