Feeding Your Teenager
Parents can help teens learn to make healthy food choices.
Adolescence is a time of tremendous change. As teens mature, they make more
food choices on their own, often in the company of influential peers.
But even as teens become more autonomous, it's still up to their parents to
provide them with good examples and nutritious foods. Here are some tips on how
to go about doing that.
Help Teens Make Good Choices
Deciding what to eat and how much to exercise is part of growing up.
But too often, a child's choices give health the short shrift. Teens may lack
the skills and motivation to do what they should to stay healthy.
"Balancing school, sports, social activities, and work presents a major
challenge to eating healthy," says Kendrin Sonneville, MS, RD, who
specializes in teen nutrition at
Children's Hospital in Boston.
On-the-go adolescents may squander opportunities for good nutrition by skimping on foods
that help fuel their growth and development. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, and choosing
processed and convenience foods over fresh translates into too much fat, sodium
and sugar, and not enough of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals
essential to a teen's health now and later.
Calcium is Critical
Calcium, critical to bone development and density, is one of the nutrients
that can easily fall through the cracks.
Calcium needs are higher than ever during the teen years -- 1,300 milligrams
a day. Yet calcium consumption often drops off in teenagers as they replace
milk with soft drinks. Research shows that 9th- and 10th-grade girls who drink
soft drinks are three times as likely to suffer a bone fracture than those who
do not drink them.
In addition to being naturally rich in calcium, milk is fortified with
vitamin D, which also helps to shore up bones. Certain yogurts contain vitamin
D; check the label to be sure. While they're calcium-rich, hard cheeses lack
Teens require the calcium equivalent of about four 8-ounce glasses of milk
daily. Here are some other foods that supply as much calcium as a glass of
- 8 ounces yogurt
- 1 1/2 ounces hard cheese
- 8 ounces calcium-added orange juice
- 2 cups low-fat cottage cheese.