5 Things to Focus On Teenager’s Nutrition

When our kids are babies and toddlers, focusing on nutrition happens naturally because we are feeding them directly. Somewhere in middle school our kids grow up and many other things take up our mind space besides food. But teenage is also a very important time for us to re-focus on nutrition. This is because the body of teenagers grows very rapidly and their appetite also grows. Their requirements for minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins increases. While we are happy their appetite is increasing, it is important to feed that appetite right so that they don’t fill up on junk calories.

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Here are a few things to focus on

1.Calcium

The bones of teenagers are growing very rapidly for which you need calcium. Teenagers need 1300 mg of calcium a day. One cup of milk has 300 mg of calcium and one cup of yogurt has 450 mg.  So by simply drinking 2 cups of milk and a glass of dahi, you are pretty much covered. Other sources of calcium include almonds, Broccoli, spinach, channa dal, all kinds of beans (rajma, black eyed beans, soya beans etc.).

2.Focus on breakfast

The first meal of the day that recharges your child. Make sure that before they leave the house they eat a healthy breakfast. All the Indian options like Idli, dosa, khichdi, upma, paratha are all great. But if your child is just not into them, at least get them to eat a healthy sandwich or low sugar cereal with fruits before leaving the house. Do not allow them to skip the meal at any cost, no matter how busy they are with exams or projects. Interestingly people who eat breakfast also have a lower chance of being overweight!! This is because when teenagers skip breakfast, they will invariably binge eat later when hunger strikes which is not a healthy eating practice. Skipping breakfast also throws off your metabolism.

3.Iron

Many teenagers tend to be anaemic, especially teen girls who have started their periods. Boys need iron because of their enhanced musculature in the teen age. Ensure that iron rich foods are part of their diet. Date milk shakes are a great way to get iron into the diet that is yummy, besides the golden oldies like palak, eggs, nuts, channa dal etc.

4.Vitamin C and B

Vitamin C is required for building immunity and also for enhancing Iron absorption from foods. So ensure that your kids get sources of vitamin C with many meals like capsicum, broccoli, papaya, cauliflower, kiwi, strawberries etc. Large amounts of Vitamin B are also required by teenagers. Unfortunately, these vitamins are difficult to get on a vegetarian diet. Therefore, it might be necessary for a vegetarian teenager to get this vitamin B from supplements.

5.Focus on junk

You might have a skinny teenager and think that no harm might come from him binge eating junk food. While he might have the metabolism to not gain weight right now, the quality of the food that you put into the body is important for long term health. So do not take weight as a consideration and focus on the components of what your child is eating and ensure that all food groups are given equal importance. Minimise junk to the extent possible. As we all know, over processed foods with chemical additives have been linked to cancers and the lesser we buy them and feed our kids, the greater our contribution to their health.

Today with peer pressure that is brought on by the images portrayed in the media, teenagers might feel pressured to go on diets to lose weight or stop themselves from gaining weight. These will have unhealthy consequences in the long run. Educate your teenager on the necessity of physical activity (games, sporting activities, swimming, jogging etc.) and how a well-balanced meal of wholesome foods will keep them healthy and looking good too, naturally!

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