Healthy Eating During Adolescence

Healthy Eating During Adolescence

What is healthy eating?

Eating healthy is an important part
of a healthy lifestyle and is something that should be taught at a young age. The
following are some general guidelines for helping your teen eat healthy. It’s important
to discuss your teen’s diet with their healthcare provider before making any dietary
changes or placing your teen on a diet. Discuss these healthy eating recommendations
with your teen so they can follow a healthy eating plan:

  • Eat 3 meals a day, with
    healthy snacks.

  • Increase fiber in the diet
    and decrease the use of salt.

  • Drink water. Try to avoid
    drinks that are high in sugar. Fruit juice can have a lot of calories, so limit
    your teen’s intake. Whole fruit is always a better choice. 

  • Eat balanced meals.

  • When cooking for your teen,
    try to bake or broil instead of fry.

  • Make sure your teen watches
    (and decreases, if necessary) their sugar intake.

  • Eat fruit or vegetables for a

  • Decrease the use of butter
    and heavy gravies.

  • Eat more chicken and fish.
    Limit red meat intake and choose lean cuts when possible.  

Choose My Plate icon

Making healthy food choices

The MyPlate icon is a guideline to
help you and your teen eat a healthy diet. MyPlate can help you and your teen eat a
variety of foods while encouraging the right amount of calories and fat.

The USDA and the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services have prepared the following food plate to guide parents in
selecting foods for children ages 2 and older.

The MyPlate icon is divided into 5
food group categories, emphasizing the nutritional intake of the following:

  • Grains. Foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or
    another cereal grain are grain products. Examples include whole wheat bread, brown
    rice, and oatmeal. Aim for mostly whole-grains.

  • Vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and
    orange vegetables, legumes (peas and beans), and starchy vegetables.

  • Fruits. Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group.
    Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut up, or
    pureed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children ages 7 to 18 limit
    juice intake to 8 ounces or 1 cup per day.

  • Dairy. Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of
    this food group. Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are
    high in calcium.

  • Protein. Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry.
    Vary your protein routine—choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.

Oils are not a food group, yet
some, such as nut oils, contain essential nutrients and can be included in the diet.
Others, such as animal fats, are solid and should be avoided.

Exercise and daily physical
activity should also be included with a healthy dietary plan.

Nutrition and activity tips

  • Provide regular daily meal
    times with social interaction. Demonstrate healthy eating behaviors.

  • Involve teens in selecting
    and preparing foods and teach them to make healthy choices by giving them the
    chance to select foods based on their nutritional value.

  • Select foods with these
    nutrients when possible: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. 

  • Most Americans need to cut
    the amount of calories they consume. When it comes to weight control, calories do count. Controlling portion
    sizes and eating non-processed foods helps limit calorie intake and increase

  • Parents are encouraged to
    provide recommended serving sizes for teens.

  • Parents are encouraged to
    limit a teen’s screen time to less than 2 hours daily. Instead encourage
    activities that call for more movement.

  • Teens need at least 60
    minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days for good health and
    fitness and for healthy weight during growth.

  • To prevent dehydration,
    encourage teens to drink fluid regularly during physical activity and drink
    several glasses of water or other fluid after the physical activity is

To find more information about the
Dietary Guidelines for Americans,
 and to determine the correct dietary recommendations for your child’s
age, sex, and physical activity level, visit the ChooseMyPlate and 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines sites. Note that the MyPlate plan is designed
for people older than age 2 who do not have chronic health conditions.

Always talk with your teen’s
healthcare provider regarding healthy diet and exercise requirements.

Healthy eating during adolescence

Healthy eating during adolescence
is important as body changes during this time affect an individual’s nutritional and
dietary needs. Teens are becoming more independent and making many food decisions on
their own. Many teens have a growth spurt and an increase in appetite and need healthy
foods to meet their needs. Teens tend to eat more meals away from home than younger
children. They are also heavily influenced by their peers. Meal convenience is important
to many teens and they may be eating too much of the wrong types of food, like soft
drinks, fast-food, or processed foods.

Also, a common concern of many
teens is dieting. Girls may feel pressure from peers to be thin and to limit what they
eat. Both boys and girls may diet to “make weight” for a particular sporting or social

These are some helpful
considerations as you prepare meals for your teen:

  • Arrange for teens to find out
    about nutrition for themselves by providing teen-oriented magazines or books with
    food articles and by encouraging them and supporting their interest in health,
    cooking, or nutrition.

  • Take their suggestions, when
    possible, regarding foods to prepare at home.

  • Experiment with foods outside
    your own culture.

  • Have several nutritious snack
    foods readily available. Often, teens will eat whatever is convenient.

  • If there are foods that you
    do not want your teens to eat, don’t bring them home.