Walk through the aisles of some major grocery stores and you’ll see a few of their shelves dedicated to healthy eating. There are gluten free crackers, sugar free cookies, plant-based foods, and dairy-free milk options. Yet, having these options hasn’t always been the case. Although there have always been a reason to make healthy food choices, those choices haven’t been as accessible.
Yet, even though families and teens have these options more readily available, it doesn’t mean that they’re taking advantage of them. There are still a large number of children who are overweight. And sadly, adolescents also seem to be gaining more and more weight. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood and teen obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Between 1980 and 2012, the percentage of teens between the ages of 12 and 19 who are obese increased from 5% to 21%.
Furthermore, according to a weight loss program website, adolescent exercise has gone down 41%. Of course, as teens gain weight, there are physical and psychological consequences – risk for diabetes, joint problems, sleep apnea, stigmatization, depression, and low self-esteem to name a few. Additionally, with being overweight, there are increase risks for various types of cancer: breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, and others.
And along with physical risks, there are mental health risks that come with being overweight. For instance, one of the large dangers that come with weight gain for teens is depression, anxiety, and emotional strife. Given the pressures of looking good and being accepted by their peers during adolescence, teens can be vulnerable to mental illness if weight gain is continuing to take place.
Of course, healthy practices of eating nutritional foods, regular physical activity, and healthy lifestyle habits play a role in the prevention of obesity in teens. In fact, just eating healthy alone can help keep a teen’s weight in check, keep a teen awake and focused in school, and help him or her excel physically at sports and in gym class.
Furthermore, the following are suggestions for meals and snacks for teens who are looking to lose weight or simply want to live a healthier lifestyle:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat foods like bananas, beans, and yogurt. These provide potassium for strong bones.
- Choose low-fat or fat-free milk instead of sodas or juice drinks that are filled with sugar.
- Limit cakes, cookies, and other food options that are made with shortening, butter, and margarine.
- When eating dinner, make sure that half your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables.
- Eat meats, chicken, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, and tofu for large amounts of protein.
- Choose whole grains when eating breads. Also, choose brown rice, oatmeal’s for half of your servings of grain.
- Snack on foods like apples, berries, or grapes.
- Take a handful of walnuts of almonds to school for a snack.
- A bag of mini carrots are also a great snack item.
- In the morning, have some low-fat or fat-free yogurt.
- String cheese is another great snack to carry around with you in school.
- When you’re home from school, a great snack before dinner might be peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers.
- Avoid value-size or extra value meals at fast food restaurants.
- Make sure to have breakfast in the morning.
- Pack a healthy lunch on days you’re not eating at school. One healthy example is a lean turkey sandwich on whole grain break and an apple.
Lastly, if you’d like an information rich resource, try the Weight-Control Information Network. It is a service provided by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which is a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This service can provide a wealth of information on healthy eating, physical activity, portion control, and nutrition.