How to contribute to good eating habits in adolescents

Adolescence is a time of important physiological changes, in which nutritional needs are increased. But it is also a stage in which food tastes and aversions are acquired that can be harmful. Therefore, helping the adolescent adopt healthy eating habits and ensure that he does not suffer from any nutritional disorder is vital to favor adequate development and, ultimately, to achieve a healthier adult life. Do you want to know more about What do I want to eat for healthy habits in adolescents stage?

Adolescence is characterized by being a period of sexual, functional and psychological maturity. It begins at approximately 12 years in girls and 14 years in boys. As a result of the acceleration of growth, the nutritional needs of adolescents are also increased.

Indispensable nutrients

In this age, the energy contribution (which must be higher than that of the adult and contain nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, minerals, especially calcium, iron, and zinc) becomes especially important.

  • The protein: Its ultimate function is to synthesize new tissues and structures of the body.
  • The vitamins: involved in very active metabolic processes during adolescence.
  • The minerals: Crucial to the proper functioning of enzyme systems; to highlight the increased iron needs (especially in girls, due to losses in menstruation ).
  • The iron: Foods rich in this nutrient are red meat, liver sausage or sausage-like or black sausage. They can be consumed once a week. Legumes are also foods rich in iron but of lower bioavailability. If we consume them with foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, their absorption is favored.
  • The calcium: In adolescence, their needs increase and are higher than those of adults because of the development of the skeleton.

In the teenager, about 1,200 milligrams are necessary (while in the adult it would be about 800 mg). The peak bone mass is acquired between 25 and 35 years, therefore, it is important to ensure the correct supply of calcium in adolescence. The deficit of this mineral can lead to the appearance of osteoporosis in advanced ages.

The zinc: A basic mineral for growth. It contributes to sexual development and tissue maintenance. It can be found in plant-based foods or vegetable seeds.

Most frequent nutritional problems

Adolescence is a stage of rebellion in which the consumption of some foods is usually abandoned while increasing the intake of others such as pastries, snacks, fast foods, sugary and even alcoholic beverages, which contain ’empty calories’ or are of low nutritional value.

The eating habits of adolescents are characterized by a tendency towards irregularity of schedules, skipping meals – especially breakfast – and also tend to make meals away from home mainly in fast-food restaurants, which can unbalance daily food, ”

Body image becomes especially important in adolescence, the youngest being very sensitive to advertising, “a fact that can condition their eating habits” qualifies. It is necessary to maintain healthy habits at home, buy and have at your disposal only those foods that we want you to eat and, in short, “lead by example”: Have at your disposal simple and attractive food, from already cut fruits and vegetables to smoothies, whole-grain bars, soups, and sandwiches.

Encourage them to make each meal in time: If they skip a meal, the tendency is that when they are hungry they snack between meals and this food is not always healthy. Breakfast is essential to start the day well. Make them spend time and, if possible, make it a time to meet at the table. Do not forget the daily physical exercise; Being fit is important for health.

A little considered aspect of adolescent health is sleep. Teens need between eight hours of sleep each night to be able to have the energy needed for daily activities. “It is important that they do not go to bed too late and avoid television and the computer just before going to sleep, as these activities stimulate the brain and hinder sleep,” he emphasizes.

Adolescents and eating disorders

As their nutritional needs grow, adolescents also face emotional challenges that can cause them to eat more than they need, skip meals or go on a diet. Therefore, it is important to monitor any unhealthy eating pattern.

Although obesity is a consequence of unhealthy eating behavior, the obsession with achieving irrational slenderness is also pathological.

Eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa are complex psychiatric diseases that primarily affect adolescents and young women.

These disorders share common symptoms such as excessive worry about food, weight, body shape and the use of unhealthy measures to control or reduce body weight.

In most cases, says the nutritionist, “these teenagers have a good school performance, linked to attitudes of self-demand and perfectionism.”

The following tips can help promote healthy habits in teenagers:

Insist on breakfast. Many teenagers tend to eliminate breakfast, although if they have someone to share it with and prepared foods available, they have breakfast more often. Make preparations the day before, for example, wash and chop the fruit to reduce the preparation time in the morning.

  • Varies foods that provide protein. Alternate beef with other foods such as fish or chicken, teens often have a preference for foods that contain beef, but it is important to vary their diet.
  • It offers vegetables and fruits in combination. Fruit blends are more attractive to them, you can also use vegetables inside dishes such as pasta or stews.
  • Limit the consumption of sugary drinks. The best option to hydrate is simple water, prepare infusions of plants or fruits to give it a different flavor. Some drinks contain large amounts of sugar, so it is recommended to reduce their consumption to 1 glass per day₄.
  • Show empathy. If your teenager is overweight or obese (BMI> 25), he probably feels as worried as you, avoid making negative comments about his image, encourage him to set goals related to healthy habits and monitor his progress with a calendar.
  • Avoid making “emergency diets”, contribute to the development of nutritional deficiencies and cause a “rebound” effect, the recovery of the weight loss once the regime is over, overweight or obese adolescents can go with a nutritionist to receive a personalized orientation.

It involves the family. Young people tend to question parents, be the example and motivate them, you can get involved in the practice of sports activities and in the preparation of healthy foods.