Yesterday’s blog looked at lifestyle and diet tips for teenagers, but today we’re going a step further to look directly at what makes up a healthy diet. Your teenage years are an important time when your body and mind are both changing and growing, so making sure you feed both with the right nutrients is important. A healthy diet will not only make you look and feel better, but it will also help you prevent future health problems associated with being over or under-weight. Whole books have been written on healthy eating, including all those fad diets that you should avoid. However, some sensible eating and exercise will do more than any diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The first thing to do is…
- Have Some Breakfast!
You may feel that you don’t have time for breakfast, or that skipping this meal will help you lose weight. In fact, it has been shown that the opposite is true, as those who skip breakfast tend to snack unhealthily later in the day. It has been hours since you last ate, so you need to get yourself fuelled up for the day ahead. Try healthy options like fruit, a healthy cereal (low in fat, salt, and sugar), or a boiled egg with toast.
- Eat Lunch and Dinner Too!
It’s not just breakfast that is important – lunch and dinner (or tea) are also important. Each meal should contain at least one portion of fruit or vegetables, and you should aim for five portions of fruit or veg every day. This is fairly common advice, but what is a ‘portion’ of fruit or veg? A portion equals two small fruits (like a satsuma), one piece of medium fruit apple or banana, or one heaped tablespoon of dried fruit – so not as much as you might have thought!
- Get Some Iron
Iron is an important part of your diet – especially for girls who will lose it when they have their period. It is estimated that as many as 50% of girls don’t get enough iron, which helps make red blood cells which carry oxygen around your body. You can get iron by eating red meat and liver, but you don’t have to eat meat to get enough iron in your body. Vegetarians can also get iron from wholemeal bread, dark leafy green veg like spinach or kale, beans, dried fruit (like raisins or figs) and seeds (sesame seeds etc).
- Invest In Your Bones
Now is the time to invest in your bones by making sure you get plenty of calcium. Your bones will reach their maximum density by the time you reach 25, so you need to get building it up now. Getting enough calcium now will help in later life too as you will be less prone to conditions like brittle bone disease. You can get calcium from dairy products like milk, yoghurt, and cheese (go for low fat if possible), bread (since calcium is added to the flour by law in the UK), plus calcium fortified products like soya and breakfast cereals. You can also get your calcium with your iron by eating leafy green vegetables. You can also get calcium from eating types of fish where you eat the bones too – such as whitebait or tinned sardines.
So much of your body is made up of, or uses water that you need to make sure you get plenty of fluids – especially during warm weather or when you have been exercising. Water is your best bet, and you should be aiming for 8-10 glasses a day. Try to avoid too much fruit juice (no more than 150ml per day), as well as swerving sugar-loaded energy drinks which can harm your teeth.
- Sensible Snacking
Three meals a day is all well and good, but there will be times when you feel hungry between meals. If so, try to reach for a healthy snack to keep you going. Fruit, nuts, seeds, and yoghurts are all good ideas, as they will offer you iron, calcium, and other nutrients while staving off your hunger.
- Fast Food?
It would be unrealistic to tell you to avoid all junk foods, but be careful to only eat them in moderation. Fast food tends to be high in fat, salt, or sugar which can be bad for you in large amounts. A little now and again shouldn’t do you any harm, but it should be the exception rather than the rule!