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10 Quick & Simple Tips to Promote Healthy Food Choices For Teens

written by: Michelle Kingston • edited by: Rhonda Callow • updated: 7/19/2011

Junk food and fast food have become the norm for many teens. The good news is that making poor food choices doesn't have to be permanent condition; lifelong, healthy eating habits for teens can be easily developed.

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    Today's teens are very well rounded and also very busy. From schoolwork, part-time jobs, and hanging with friends, to spending exorbitant amounts of time on the internet, cell phone, and popular social media sites, eating well sometimes gets little attention from teens. Have a look at ten easy-to-incorporate tips for healthy eating that all teens can use.

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    1. Don't skip breakfast.

    Over 20% of teenagers skip breakfast, a trend typically blamed on both the desire to shed unwanted pounds, and oversleeping. The danger in skipping breakfast is that it deprives the body of much-needed nutrients, and it also fuels intense 'hunger pangs' that leads to pigging-out later on. Having a healthy breakfast is essential to jump-start metabolism and to increase energy level. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also advises that teens get 7.5 hours of sleep per night in order to prevent sleep deprivation, fatigue, and weight gain.

    2. Increase calcium intake. milk 

    The recommended daily dose of calcium is 1,200 milligrams, but many pre-teens and teens fall short of that amount due to poor eating habits. You can teach nutrition to teens by communicating to them, the nutritional value of calcium-rich foods like yogurt, low-fat cheese, soymilk, fortified orange juice, and almonds. Sufficient calcium intake helps strengthens bones and teeth in growing teens.

    3. Make healthier choices at fast food restaurants.

    Substitute high-caloric Big Whoppers and bacon-double-cheeseburgers with better alternatives like veggie burgers. Omit cheeses, mayo, and sauces from all burgers in order to reduce the amount of fat and sodium in the food. By removing the skin from fried chicken, the number of calories drops by 120, and sodium drops by 510 milligrams.

    4. Choose healthy snacks.

    Have you noticed that potato chips are now healthier than ever? Although many brands offer 'baked', 'low sodium', and 'fat-free' options, chips are still considered junk food and should be eaten in moderation.

    The healthiest snacks for teens are fruits. Any fruit can be added to yogurt, and then sprinkled with nuts, or granola, and you've created an instant treat. Fruits can also be frozen and then pureed to make slushies, popsicles, and sorbets.

    5. Count your vegetables.

    Another healthy eating tip for teens involves increasing the servings of vegetables at every meal. Start by filling 'half' of the plate with a colorful selection of vegetables. Divide the remaining section equally. Use one portion for lean meats, fish, or eggs—that leaves the remainder to include brown rice, pasta, potatoes, or whole grain bread.

    6. Become a vegetarian.

    veggie food A growing number of teenagers are choosing to become strict vegetarians. Vegetarian diets are healthy and provide substantial nutritional needs for young adults. However, the absence of meat products can trigger deficiencies of Vitamins C and D, B12, and iron (an essential mineral for teen girls). Balance any nutritional deficiency by incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and non-meat sources like fortified tofu.

    7. Make your own food.

    This is the surest and healthiest way to develop healthy eating habits for teens. Fast food may be convenient and tasty, but even with healthier menu choices, fast foods still contain high salt and fat content. By making food at home, teens accept responsibility to control portion size and ingredients.

    8. Eat, don't diet.

    To achieve optimal well-being, eat three balanced meals daily (or preferably four smaller meals). Try to incorporate low-fat snacks between meals to fill in gaps.

    Weight loss diets unfortunately do not work, and is not recommended for anyone aged thirteen to eighteen. Dieting also contributes to poor academic performance in the classroom, and affects one’s ability to excel in sports.

    9. Drink plenty of liquids.

    water Teens should drink plenty of water—the amount is based on their age, weight, and height. Drinking water is essential for hydration and also for removing toxins from the body. Filtered water, sugar-reduced drinks, green tea, and rice milk counts towards daily liquid intake, as does eating watery fruits like watermelon and pears.

    10. Eat a wide variety of foods.

    Selecting a variety of foods encourages healthy eating habits for teens because it quashes boredom caused by eating the same foods every day. Get creative too by sampling foods from other cultures, or become adventurous by trying grocery items you don't normally eat. Variety also means increasing nutrient intake by selecting healthy foods to eat from the major food groups.

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