A Complete Guide To Teen Nutrition 13-19
For females, the teenage years are a period of intense physical, emotional, and intellectual growth. This life stage is characterized by transitions: moving out of childhood and flowing into adulthood. It is also a time when habits are developed that, more often than not, last a lifetime. The most significant amount of growth occurs in the brain. The brain’s wiring becomes more complex, especially in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area responsible for organizing and forming strategy, controlling impulses, and attention. This means that the ability to plan, socially adapt, imagine consequences of different actions, and create emotional significance from life events is still developing throughout these years.
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
5 - 7 servings of fruits and vegetables combined is recommended. They provide essential vitamins and minerals a teen body needs for optimal growth, energy production, and body system functioning.
Balanced meals/regular meals and mealtimes are best! Consume 3 Meals a Day with Snacks. Skipping meals can lead to insufficient intake of nutrients to support the body. If carbohydrates are not consumed in adequate amounts, the body will be lacking energy, and the ability to concentrate will diminish. Focus on Iron-Containing Foods.
Eat Adequate Amounts of Protein
Protein is needed for growth and to keep muscles healthy. Insufficient protein consumption during teenage years can stunt height and weight.
Should account for 15-20% of total calories consumed. It is necessary for physical growth and optimal functioning of body organs and pathways.
Fat. Hidden fats are in processed foods, baked goods, junk food, and animal products. Healthy fats should be consumed in adequate amounts. Examples of good fat foods are walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and cold-water wild-caught fish.
Focus on getting enough calcium + iron. These minerals are especially important for teens. Calcium supports growing bone structure, while iron is essential in building lean body mass and preventing deficiencies associated with menstruation.
Iron makes red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. During this period, if healthy, a female teen will start to menstruate.This causes a monthly loss of iron. Not replacing this lost iron can cause the development of anemia. This condition makes you tired, light-headed, and short of breath. Animal products contain the highest amount of iron.
Plant-based options do exist, such as baked beans, lentils, nuts & seeds, nettle tea, molasses, dark chocolate, and dark leafy greens.
Great calcium sources: almonds, sesame seeds, bok choy, broccoli, yogurt & salmon.
Foods rich in iron: organic meat,fish, tofu, eggs, beans & lentils, and nuts & seeds. Eating a whole foods diet and plenty of sources of these nutrients will give your body the support it needs to develop optimally.
Fluid intake is an essential part of a teens diet. Aim to drink ½ your body weight in oz daily.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Improves behavior, mood, attention span, and brain development.
Iron. Teenage females bodies that have begun their period are in need of higher amounts of iron in the diet. You can also try a multi + iron.
Always consult your healthcare provider before supplementing with iron.
Probiotics. Inflammation of the gut can cause acne, allergies, and harm immune system functioning. Probiotics can help restore healthy gut flora to prevent this from occurring.
WAYS TO PREVENT EATING DISORDERS
Eat for your body’s needs. Never compare what you are eating to others. Tune in & listen to what your body needs. As a teen, your body is undergoing a lot of growth & change. Bone growth, hormonal changes, brain development, and overall bodily development
mean that you need extra nutrients and healthy carbs, protein & fats. Try to become more aware of your body and what it is telling you regarding your nutritional needs & dietary intake.
Limit restrictions. Creating limitations on what can or cannot be consumed leads to guilt and unhealthy eating patterns. Instead, have the mindset that you can eat what you like, but maintain control and focus on making the healthy decision most of the time. Eliminate the word "diet." Diets limit the body’s natural impulses. It is more important to listen to your body, make small changes that can last a lifetime, and not actively restrict yourself to look a certain way.
Create dialogue around media. The messages portrayed in the media toward teenage girls can negatively impact body image views and self-acceptance. Parents and caregivers as well as any adult in a position of authority (such as teachers, coaches & relatives) should be in continuous communication with teens regarding what is seen in the media and social media about physical appearance and healthy living. Much of what is portrayed is unrealistic or literally un-real, and fueled by advertising dollars and marketing.
Exercise Engaging in physical activity helps keep the heart and lungs strong and produces endorphins, which improves mood. A well-balanced exercise routine includes aerobic exercise, strength training and flexibility training, such as yoga or pilates. Teens should engage in at least 60 minutes of vigorous exercise every day.
Sleep Arguably the most crucial aspect of teen health (and maybe the most neglected)! Teens often require more sleep than adults, at least 9-12 hours every night. This can get difficult when early school start times, late afternoon practices, and need to do homework after dinner are considered. Over time, sleepless nights impact immunity, weight, information retention, and emotional health. Sleep consolidates and reorganizes memories, structuring them in the brain for later retrieval. It also helps produce new and creative ideas. Consider setting a bedtime that allows for at least nine hours of sleep before waking up for school. Besides, the hour before bedtime should be used as “me-time” to reduce stress and ensure high-quality sleep. This time should not involve any technology so that the brain and body are able to relax fully.
If you need assistance with relaxation, try gentle herbs like chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm, or a homeopathic sleep combination.
Stress Management Stressful events can predispose teens to weight gain, nutrient depletion, compromised immunity and decreased mental health. Stress can be managed with supplements, such as lemon balm, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and GABA. Regular exercise, sufficient sleep and eliminating caffeine helps as well.
Stress management techniques such as muscle relaxation, meditation, journaling, and yoga can be practiced as well.
Screen Time Excessive technology use can lead to weight gain, attention problems, school difficulties, eating disorders, and sleep issues. The blue light emitted by computer screens can interfere with the body’s natural circadian rhythms, disrupting sleep. Set boundaries for when devices with screens can and cannot be used, and follow them strictly. Technology should never be used more than an hour before going to sleep.