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Healthy eating

You will see many changes to your body and your lifestyle during your teenage years.  Eating a healthy, varied diet and keeping active will be good for your health and can help you deal with times of stress such as exams or family situations.  Developing healthy eating and lifestyle habits now will hopefully last you for life (British Nutrition Foundation).

Starting the day with BREAKFAST is essential as it gives teenagers an energy boost to cope with busy mornings at school or college.  Choose a healthy option in the school canteen or take a packed LUNCH and then a balanced EVENING MEAL is suggested to meet the healthy eating guidelines.

Examples of a day’s menu:

Breakfast – breakfast cereal with milk, glass of fruit juice or baked beans on toast
Mid morning snack – portion of fruit
Lunch – wholemeal bread sandwich with tuna and salad, diet yoghurt, fruit
Mid afternoon snack – slice of malt loaf or fruit scone
Evening meal – family meal, e.g. spaghetti bolognese, cottage pie with vegetables
Bedtime snack – diet yoghurt or portion of fruit

Top healthy eating tips for teens:

Your teenage years are an important time for growth and development, so a healthy, varied diet is essential to ensure you receive all the energy and nutrients you need to concentrate well at school and to participate in sports and activities (British Nutrition Foundation). Source: British Nutrition Foundation

1. Don’t skip breakfast.  Some people think that not eating breakfast will help them to lose weight, but breakfast is important for you, as it has been a long time since you last ate and this meal will boost your energy levels.  Try a slice of wholegrain toast with low-fat spread and a glass of orange juice, or a bowl of cereal with semi-skimmed, skimmed or 1% milk and an apple or banana; or a boiled egg and toast and a fruit smoothie.

2. Eat three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Make sure each meal includes at least one portion of fruit or vegetables and plenty of starch foods such as whole wheat pasta, wholemeal bread or potatoes with their skins.  Aim for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

3. Boost your iron.  Eat plenty of foods containing iron, which is especially important for girls who lose iron when having their period.  Iron is important in making red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body.  Sources of iron include red meat and liver, wholegrains (e.g. wholemeal bread), iron-fortified cereals, dark green vegetables, beans, dried fruits and seeds.

4. Build up your bones.  Teenagers need high amounts of calcium because your bones are growing.  The best sources of calcium are dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, white and brown bread, calcium-fortified dairy alternatives, e.g. soya, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals, dark green vegetables, and fish that is eaten with the bones.

5. Drink plenty of fluids.  This is especially important when taking part in exercise and physical activity as the body loses water as sweat.  Aim for about 8-10 glasses per day.  Try to avoid too many sugar-containing drinks and energy drinks which could harm your teeth.

6. Limit how much fast food you eat.  These can be high in fat, salt and/or sugars.

7. Snack sensibly.  If hungry between meals, choose a healthier snack such as fresh or dried fruit, a small handful of unsalted nuts and/or seeds, or a low-fat yoghurt.



Energy drinks – A note of caution  These can be harmful to children and young people.  They contain lots of sugar and caffeine.  The ingredients used when mixed together can create cardiovascular issues, i.e. they can affect the heart, blood vessels and respiratory system.
The drinks can make people dependent on caffeine which can then show signs of withdrawal when not drinking them; it can also lead to nausea, anxiety, palpitations and jitteriness.  The high levels of sugar in the drinks can cause issues such as weight gain and tooth decay.

Being a healthy weight  The media often promotes the ‘thin’ body ideal, and therefore it can be confusing what a healthy weight is and how to achieve it.  People come in all different shapes and sizes, and by eating a healthy, varied diet and taking part in physical activity, your weight should stay healthy.  If you are concerned about your weight, contact beat (www.b-eat.co.uk) (British Nutrition Foundation).

Overweight and obesity  Being overweight or obese can affect self-esteem and increase the risk of numerous health conditions including Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.If overweight, eating a healthy, varied diet and maintaining an active lifestyle can help you lose weight.  You will also feel better as you are giving your body the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs (British Nutrition Foundation).

Fad diets  If worried about your weight, do not be tempted to follow one of the popular ‘fad’ or ‘crash’ diets.  These might lead to short-term weight loss but are often very difficult to maintain and as soon as you start eating normally again, you are likely to regain the weight.  They can leave your body lacking in energy and a number of important nutrients.  Often these diets can have unpleasant side effects, e.g. cutting out carbohydrates leaves you feeling tired and irritable, suffering from headaches, nausea, dehydration and dizziness – not exactly a quick fix to feel great about yourself (British Nutrition Foundation).

Eating disorders  The three most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa (anorexia), bulimia nervosa (bulimia) and binge eating disorder.  Although these disorders manifest themselves in different ways, the underlying theme is the same in that suffers cannot separate their emotions from their eating habits and this skews the way, and amount, they eat.  If you or someone you know suffers from an eating disorder, do not delay in finding help - eating disorders can have lifelong repercussions.  More information on eating disorders is available here.

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