Nutrition for Good Health - The Teen Scene
by Ed Schmidt
Oftentimes one hears a teen saying, “I’m fat. I’m too skinny. I’d be happy if I were taller, shorter, had curly hair, straight hair, a smaller nose, bigger muscles, longer legs”. The list of their complaints is never-ending. This is the age when one is most confused, either because of peer pressure or because of one’s own curiosity “to know all and do all”. And as the body changes, so does the body image. Many people have trouble adjusting, and this can affect their self-esteem.
Self-esteem is all about how much people value themselves, the pride they feel in themselves, and how worthwhile they feel. Self-esteem is important because feeling good about yourself can affect how you act. A person who has high self-esteem will make friends easily, is more in control of his or her behavior, and will enjoy life more. Body image is how a person feels about his or her own physical appearance. For people in their early teens, body image can be closely linked to self-esteem. That’s because as children develop into teens, they care more about how others see them. It is needless to mention that a person takes to short-cuts and quick repair methods, in order to fit into the society’s definition of “ a smart looking teen”. Most of this involves a drastic change in their diet patterns, which lacks in all the essential nutrients and thus takes a toll on their overall health and well-being. Once the purpose of their action is defeated, the teens lose hope in everything that is advised to them! Here comes the role of the parents, in building the concept of good health and well being in children. Parents are advised to encourage children to read interesting articles on teen health and nutrition. The success stories published in such articles not only give plain information, they also play an important role in motivating the teenage children to eat healthy for staying healthy.
Adolescence seems to be synonymous with erratic eating habits as the typical teenager’s life fills up with friends, sports and homework. Yet, adolescence is also a time of rapid growth and development that makes healthy eating habits even more important. Therefore, it is important that teenagers are encouraged to make nutritious food choices. When all their peers eat fast food for lunch, you cannot expect your child to munch on green leaves and raw vegetables! This would be the most unrealistic approach and would only invite resistance. With teenagers, it works best to teach them how to make better choices whether they are eating at home, school or in restaurants.
Improving eating habits among teens is crucially important for two reasons (among others): building strong bones and preventing obesity.
* The foundation for a lifetime of strong bones is built during the teen and young adult years until about age 30. This represents their peak bone mass - the strongest their bones will ever be. Yet, research indicates that teenagers are not getting nearly enough calcium to build strong bones and that can lead to osteoporosis later in life.
* Maintaining normal weight is critically important since obesity often leads to diabetes-type 2, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, conditions once seen most commonly in adults. For adults as well as children, the best way to treat and prevent these problems is a combination of healthy die and exercise. In addition, positive eating patterns adapted during the teen years are very likely to last a lifetime
What’s “Junky” about the Junk Foods?
Many snacks, such as potato chips, fast-food cheeseburgers, and fries, have high levels of fat, sugar or salt–ingredients that should be best limited to a small portion of your diet. Healthy eating doesn’t mean that you can’t have your favorite foods, but the Dietary Guidelines advise you to be selective and limit the total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium you eat. Our main source of saturated fat comes from animal products and hydrogenated vegetable oils, with tropicaloils–coconut and palm–providing smaller amounts. Only animal fat provides cholesterol. Sodium mostly comes from salt added to foods during processing, home preparation, or at the table.
Fats are our most concentrated source of energy. It is common knowledge now that eating too much fat, especially saturated fat and cholesterol, increases blood cholesterol levels, and therefore increases your risk of heart disease. Too much fat also may lead to overweight and increase your risk of some cancers.
Dietitians recommend that no more than 30 percent of your calories come from fats, and not more than 10 percent of these calories should be from saturated fat. When you eat out, particularly at fast-food restaurants look for broiled or baked rather than fried foods. Try the salad bars more often, but avoid looking at the creamy items and limit the amount of salad dressing you use to keep down the fat and calories. Look for milk-based high-calcium foods with reduced fat.
Why the excitement about fiber?
Whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans and peas, vegetables, and fruits contain various types of dietary fiber essential for proper bowel function. Eating plenty of these fiber-rich foods may reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease. The benefits from a high-fiber diet may be related to the foods themselves and not to fiber alone. For this reason, it’s best to get fiber from foods rather than from the fiber supplements you can purchase in a store.
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