Eating tips for teenagers

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Most teenagers across the world are facing a health crisis. Their diets are high in fat and sugar, low in fruits vegetables and many essential nutrients. Teenagers do not get enough exercise and are spending more time in solitary, sedentary activities like watching TV and playing video or computer games.


Why should I be aware of this?

Good nutrition is essential for growing teenagers. Unfortunately most teenagers do not have a balanced diet. Adolescents' buy unhealthy takeaway foods that fail to meet the recommended dietary requirements for caloric and nutrient intake. In fact teens receive the majority of their calories from processed foods.

The obsession with thinness is making girls and boys diet at younger and younger ages. This is stunting their growth in height and compromising their health by restricting their food intake. The incidence of eating disorders is also on the rise even as childhood obesity and teenage obesity afflict more and more children.

If your teenager's diet comprises mostly of carbonated soft drinks fast food and junk food, then his dietary intake is

How does it affect me?

The nutritional needs of teens vary tremendously, but generally increase due to the rapid growth and changes in body composition that occur during puberty. Adequate nutrition is vital for ensuring your teens overall emotional and physical health.

A low intake of essential nutrients including vitamin A, folic acid, fibre, iron and calcium is prevalent among adolescents. A low intake of iron and calcium in particular is common among female adolescents, which can impair cognitive function and physical performance, as well as increase a female's risk for osteoporosis later in life.

Poor diet results in health problems, which were earlier associated primarily with adults. These include

All about teen eating habits

By understanding teen eating habits, parents can be better prepared to evaluate the nutritional adequacy of their teen's diet and ensure that they are meeting the minimum requirements to maintain their health and well being.

Common teen eating habits include

  • Skipping Meals --Teens skip meals as a result of irregular schedules, convenience, work and social activities. Up to 50% of teens skip breakfast, the most important meal of the day.
  • Snacking -- Because of the 'skipping meal' factor, many teens fail to eat three regular meals per day, and resort to snacking. Planning good snacks that meet the nutritional requirement of the teens are a priority.
  • Fast food - Teens are more apt to eat fast food because it is convenient and typically a social affair.
  • Dieting -- Teens often diet to become thinner. Some signs that your teen may be dieting include: skipping meals, 'binge' eating, fasting or use of laxatives or diet pills.

Useful tips

Here are some useful tips to help your teen get adequate nutrition.

  • Cut back on fizzy sugary drinks or soft drinks. Go for sugar-free versions. Drink lots of water instead.
  • Keep a fruit bowl stocked at home for fast and low-calorie snacks.
  • Eat breakfast every day so you’re less likely to snack on junk food at morning tea. A fortified breakfast cereal served with low fat milk can provide plenty of vitamins, mineral and fibre. Other fast and healthy options include yoghurt or wholemeal toast.
  • Don’t skip lunch or dinner either.
  • Try grilling, stir-frying, baking, boiling or using the microwave instead of deep frying.
  • Reduce the size of your meals.
  • Do not add salt to your food.
  • Teenagers should avoid eating high fat foods every time they visit a fast food outlet with their friends. Many of the popular fast food chains now have healthier food choices on the menu.
  • Teenager should try change their meeting place. Rather than meeting up with their friends at the local takeaway shop, suggest a food outlet that serves healthier foods

What can I do?

If you are a parent, you can

  • Have a supply of ready to eat healthy food items available that your teen can grab and go in the morning.

If you are a teenager you can -

  • Raise awareness and gain support for your school canteen to stock healthier food choices.
  • Ask your school canteen to include a range of low-price healthy food choices.
  • Help with the grocery shopping and opt for fewer processed foods.
  • Get involved in the kitchen at home.


  • Adolescent girls who frequently eat meals with their families appear less likely to use diet pills, laxatives or other extreme measures to control their weight five years later, according to a new report.[1]
  • Fast food can be a convenient alternative to cooking for busy families," said Kerri Boutelle, Ph.D., lead author and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School. "But, frequently making fast food a family meal can negatively affect food choices in the house and the overall health of the family.[2]
  • Researchers have found that older adolescents who have a bedroom television are less likely to engage in healthy activities such as exercising, eating fruits or vegetables, and enjoying family meals. They also consumed larger quantities of sweetened beverages and fast food, were categorized as heavy TV watchers, and read or studied less than teens without TVs in their bedrooms.[3]
  • Studies show that teens in middle adolescence are eating fewer fruits and vegetables in 2007 than in 1999. And the situation only worsens as teens get older.[4]
  • Studies show that a low dietary intake of certain nutrients increases the likelihood of respiratory symptoms such as asthma, especially in teens who smoke. Furthermore, a lack of these nutrients may also lead to lower lung function.[5]
  • University of Minnesota researchers found that girls who ate regular family meals in a structured and positive environment were less likely to exhibit extreme weight control behaviors such as diet pill use, vomiting, and chronic dieting.[6]
  • University of Minnesota researchers found that watching television while eating family meals may have a negative impact on children’s diets.[7]

See also


  • Eating tips for teenagers
  • Most Adolescents Fail to Meet the Recommended Dietary Requirements
  • Improving Children's Academic Performance, Health and Quality of Life


  1. Eating Less Common Among Teen Girls Who Regularly Eat Family Meals
  2. Fast Food As Family Meals Limits Healthy Food Intake, Increases Obesity Risk
  3. Teens Who Have TV In Their Bedroom Are Less Likely To Engage In Healthy Habits, Study Shows
  4. Teens Slacking On Fruit, Veggie Intake
  5. Can An Apple A Day Keep Asthma Away? Poor Diets Show Increased Respiratory Symptoms In Teens
  6. Regular Family Meals Promote Healthy Eating Habits
  7. Turn Off The TV During Family Meals