Energy boosters for active teenagers

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Energy boosters for  active teenagers

LOAD IT UP!  Teenagers need more energy-giving foods than any other  group. This explains why they are perennially hungry.

Good nutrition is essential for everyone, but it’s especially important for teenagers. A teenager’s day is often packed from dawn to dusk with classes, tuitions, sports and extra curricular activities. This often means that they eat on the run.

Adolescence is marked by rapid growth spurts and considerable gain in bone density and muscle mass. Due to the big changes that are going on in the body, the nutrition that adolescents get makes a big difference to their present health and future wellbeing.

An active  teenager’s diet should sustain growth and promote good health. But adolescence is also a time when getting proper nutrition is not always easy. Adolescents begin to develop independence from their parents, including making decisions about the food they eat. Instead of healthy food, they may choose to eat junk food. To ensure that they get all the nutrients they need, they should be encouraged  to eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups. This will help to meet the body’s demand for energy, protein and various minerals and vitamins as well. Teenagers need more energy-giving foods than any other group. This explains why they are always “starving” between meals and often overeat to satiate their appetites!

 At such times, it’s better to let them have calorie-rich, nutritious foods like nuts and dry fruits rather than unhealthy snacks. They need plenty of proteins because they are becoming tall and strong. Make sure that they have protein every day, from dals and pulses to dairy products.  

Calcium and iron

Teenagers need extra calcium as their bones are growing rapidly.  It’s great if your teenager is still drinking the daily glass or two of milk, because milk is one of  the richest sources of calcium. Curd, paneer,  dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, dry fruits and pulses are also good sources of calcium. Some rich sources of iron are meat, soya, poha (flattened rice flakes), spinach and other green leafy vegetables.

Adolescents girls have to be particular to get enough iron as a deficiency may lead to anaemia. Iron from meat, poultry and fish is better absorbed by the body. The absorption of iron from green vegetables  is greatly helped by Vitamin C.  No wonder  many of our traditional recipes use this principle, and regularly combine tomatoes or tamarind with leafy vegetables like spinach or amaranthus. 

Limit junk food

With changing lifestyles and increasing availability of  processed and packaged foods, many teenagers gorge on  junk food regularly. This might be fizzy drinks and high- calorie snacks like potato chips, pastries or bread pakoras, fast-food like cheese burgers and fries. Compared to home-cooked food,  this kind of food is almost always high in fat, salt or sugar and low in nutrients like vitamins and minerals.

Healthy eating doesn’t mean that you can’t have your favourite foods, but it is advisable to be selective and limit these foods  to a small portion of your diet.

Ensure there are plenty of healthy snack options available at home between meals for “hungry” teenagers.

If nutritious snacks are available, your family is likely to make healthier choices. Stock the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator with fresh fruit, dry fruits, low-fat cheese, dahi, wholegrain bread etc.

Steer clear of fad diets

At the other end of the spectrum, we often see that many teenage girls eat too little. The final growth spurt in adolescent girls means adding some fat padding.

Peer pressure often encourages girls to diet unnecessarily to stay slim. Many girls turn to unhealthy dieting methods to lose weight, including eating very little, cutting out complete groups of foods, skipping meals, and fasting.

Teenagers who want to lose weight should consult a doctor or nutritionist to ensure that it’s appropriate: is she really overweight or is she merely dissatisfied with her natural body shape? 

Adolescence is a crucial stage when a healthy diet is important, and fad dieting may leave out important foods and nutrients that adolescents need to grow well and stay healthy.
       
Select healthy meals

If your teenager carries a packed mid-morning snack and lunch from home, you can load it up with veggies, complex carbohydrates  and some protein and even a fruit.  If your teenager eats lunch outside, then you can talk to him/her about the healthy choices available at the college canteen or in restaurants.

Make time to eat dinner together as a family as often as possible. Yes, this is becoming rather difficult with the busy schedules that parents and children have. But research has shown that adolescents who eat with their families tend to have healthier diets when they’re older. They also smoke and drink less than others, and girls who have regular family meals have less incidence of eating disorders.

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