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Support teens to build healthy habits

As teens face rapid physical growth, puberty, and mood changes, they also develop increased autonomy and self-awareness. Engaging in health-promoting habits may not interest the typical teen; however, nutrition and lifestyle choices during this critical time influence their current health and impact their well-being as adults.

As their key supporters, we can teach our teens how to live healthy lives today for a strong and confident future.

Healthy eating for teens

Getting your teen to consume nutritious food can be a struggle. As adolescents gain more independence over their food choices and eating behaviors, commonly influenced by their peers, social media, and convenience, it gets harder for caregivers to provide nutrition advice.

Habits such as skipping meals, following fad diets, inadequate intake of healthy food, and overconsumption of unhealthy food can put teens at risk of not getting the nutrients needed for growth, development, and disease prevention.

Food insecurity is another challenge adolescents may encounter. Resulting malnutrition and poor eating habits can influence the time of puberty, impair cognitive function, increase school absences and stress, and contribute to health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases.

Support your teen’s nutrition habits by:

· Teaching the importance of choosing healthy instead of unhealthy food

· Reading and understanding food labels together

· Involving them in making grocery lists, shopping, and food preparation

· Being a role model by consuming a nutrient-rich diet, including healthy proteins and fat, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables

· Encouraging the intake of three meals (don’t skip breakfast!), plus 2–4 snacks daily

· Replacing caffeine and sugar-laden beverages with water

· Eating together as a family, which improves dietary intake among youth

· Acknowledging positive changes and routinely discussing any challenges

Nutrient support for teens

Nutrient deficiencies are an unfortunate consequence of poor eating habits. Research confirms that many adolescents are not meeting the recommended daily requirements for nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. In addition, nutrients such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, and iron are often deficient in adolescent girls because of higher requirements for menstruation.

Addressing nutrient deficiencies with food is an important first step; however, if your teen isn’t on board with this, nutritional supplements are the next best solution. Work with your teen’s healthcare provider to determine if they require specific supplements to prevent and/or treat nutrient deficiencies.

Reduced technology use for teens

These days, teens’ lives revolve around technology. Excessive smartphone use and engagement in social media have been linked to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, and reduced physical fitness. Confiscating your teen’s phone isn’t the solution and may be more harmful than helpful.

Alternatively, communicate about the drawbacks of excessive technology use, and how limiting social media can decrease loneliness and depression. Additionally, educate about the importance of taking breaks, which can serve as opportunities to exercise and participate in other hobbies.

Encourage your teens to find an activity they enjoy, whether it’s a simple walk outside, a team sport, swimming, biking, or volunteering. A family activity also provides an opportunity for connection with the teen in your life.

Start your teen’s morning off right

Teens need a nutritious breakfast to help fuel their day, but hectic mornings often leave little time for a balanced meal. Smoothies offer a wholesome solution! Jam-packed with nutrients, smoothies can be consumed while on the go.

Try this recipe and encourage your teen to experiment with different kinds of milk (or water), protein powders, fruits, and veggies!

Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie

· 1 cup almond milk

· 1 scoop of chocolate whey or plant-based protein powder

· ½ cup frozen raspberries

· 1 tsp almond butter

· 1 frozen banana

· 1 tsp of your favorite fish oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. In case of nut allergies, remove almond butter. Garnish with cacao powder and fresh raspberries. Enjoy on the go!

Dr. Stephanie Rubino operates a general naturopathic practice with a focus on women’s health, and digestive health. She has a special interest in educating the public and other health professionals about a range of health topics and natural health product issues.


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