Healthy Eating for Teenagers

Health Food

All age groups are encouraged to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Research shows that five portions a day can help prevent heart disease and some types of cancer. Fruit and vegetables are also full of vitamins, minerals and fibre and are low in fat.

Dried fruit and fruit juices or smoothies can each be counted as only one portion a day, however much you have. Both dried fruit and juices should be taken with a meal as the high sugar content can be damaging to teeth.

Starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta are a good source of energy, fibre and B vitamins and should be used as the basis for meals. Choose higher-fibre, wholegrain varieties such as whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or by leaving the skinĀ on potatoes.

Wholegrain food contains more fibre than white or refined starchy food, and often more of other nutrients. We also digest wholegrain food more slowly and can help us feel full for longer. They also help prevent constipation, protect against some cancers and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Starchy foods are also low in fat, though the butter or creamy sauces that are often added to them can have a higher fat content.

Eggs are a convenient alternative to meat and are extremely versatile. They can be scrambled, boiled, poached or made into an omelette.

Young peopleĀ are recommended to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. Tinned fish, such as salmon, mackerel and pilchards contain lots of omega 3 fatty acids and are good for heart health.

Meat is a good source of protein, vitamin B12 and iron. A diet rich in iron will help prevent iron deficiency anaemia which is a common condition in teenage girls. Processed meats and chicken products should be limited as they tend to be high in fat and salt and lower in iron.

Milk and dairy foods (and alternatives) such as yoghurt and cheese, are important sources of calcium, vitamins A and D, B12, protein and fat. Calcium is needed to help build strong bones and for nerve and muscle function.

Vitamin D is needed to help absorb calcium and therefore plays an important part in strengthening bone.

Try to choose lower fat varieties such as semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, cottage cheese, Edam cheese and half fat cheddars. When buying dairy alternatives go for unsweetened, calcium-fortified varieties.

If you are active and eating a healthy balanced diet, you should be able to maintain a healthy weight.

If you are overweight, you should stick to a balanced diet, try to cut down on foods containing sugar and fat, and get plenty of physical activity. Teenagers should be aiming for an hour of physical activity every day.

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