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Nutritious Teen is NOT an Oxymoron

Adolescents have a lot of pressure on them in today’s world. Things like school, family stuff, friends, church, and sports can be very overwhelming. And let’s not forget we are living in a society where incredible emphasis is placed on beauty, thinness, and general physical appearance. Adolescence is a time of tremendous change in physical appearance, and many teens report dissatisfaction with their body shape and size during this time. Plumpness is no longer viewed as a symbol of success and robust health in American society, but rather as a sign of inadequate self-discipline or insufficient willpower. As a result of such beliefs, today’s larger teens are routine victims of teasing, bullying, and size discrimination. In a society that often blames, shames, and ridicules the victim rather than addressing the environmental conditions that contribute to obesity, those who practice size discrimination are not rebuked because of the high cultural value placed on thinness.

TV shows and magazines are flooding our eyes, ears, and minds with pictures of impossibly thin and muscular models!! The media and our culture tells us how to define beauty. If you don’t believe me, just google some of the advertisements from the 1950s. Being skinny was not viewed as attractive a few decades ago. One ad I found marketing a supplement for women read something like this… “Skinny? And heading to the beach soon? Here’s how thousands gained naturally alluring curves!” And I think we can all agree… most females today aren’t trying to gain weight before heading to the beach! Instead, women are constantly barraged with unrealistically skinny images that often stir up feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and depression. Furthermore, it can lead to the development of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. My challenge to you, is to not let the media define whether or not you are beautiful. God says you are fearfully and wonderfully made. So who are you going to believe. The God Almighty or the media??

Also worth mentioning (in cause you don’t believe beauty is highly defined by the media) is how people in other parts of the world view beauty. For instance long, graceful necks are considered as symbols of beauty and elegance in a tribe in Burma. Women belonging to this ancient culture wear multiple brass rings coiled around the neck from a very young age and the number of rings increase as the woman grows older. In addition, a tribe in New Zealand considers women with traditional lip and chin tattoos as most beautiful. I don’t know about you, but my husband is definitely not begging me to wear rings around my neck or to get a chin tattoo.

So…..Here’s the deal. During adolescents the biggest and most important growth spurt occurs. This is the most critical time for a person to learn to eat right and treat their body with the respect (and the nutrition!) it deserves. If you don’t you might stunt your growth or develop health problems.

Boys and girls grow at different rates and in different body parts. Throughout infancy and early middle childhood, boys are usually taller and heavier than girls, but during early or preadolescence, the reverse is true. Girls experience their peak growth spurt between ages 9.5 and 14.5, and during this period are actually larger than boys of the same age. Boys grow rapidly when they are about 14.5 years old, on average, and soon regain their advantage in size over girls.

Before we talk about what to eat….let’s talk about what not to eat. If you do eat processed food, please don’t do it daily. Processed food has little to zero nutritional value, and is high in calories, fat, sugar, and salt which can often make you overweight and sick. Processed food should only be consumed in moderation. My family is not perfect when it comes to our diet. We love a good party that includes cake, chips, candy, etc, but I don’t let them live off this type of food. Remember Satan is the ruler of this world, a murderer, a destroyer and attempts to deceive everyone. I believe a lot of the unhealthy conditions and influences around us are the result of his attempt to destroy us physically as well as spiritually.

God created a tremendous variety of food so we would not get bored and to accommodate our taste preferences. But the most important reason for the variety is to help us get an abundance of nutrients that our bodies need. In 1 Corinthians, Paul tells followers of Jesus Christ that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we are to take care of our bodies and keep them as healthy as we can. Since eating unhealthy can lead to multiple health risks and diseases, we need to realize that our food consumption and exercise habits all play a part in our overall health status.

CALORIE REQUIREMENTS Teenage boys on average need 1,800 to 2,600 calories a day if they’re 11 to 13 years, and 2,200 to 3,200 calories a day if they’re 14 to 18 years of age. Teenage girls need 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day if they’re ages 11 to 13, and 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day if they’re age 14 to 18. Those involved in strenuous physical activity such as soccer, basketball, football or other sports may need 3,500 calories (more or less) daily.

CARBOHYDRATES Adolescents and young adults need a ready, steady supply of carbohydrate foods. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for carbohydrate is at least 130 gm of total carbohydrate daily for adults and children. This recommendation is based on the minimum amount of carbohydrate needed to provide glucose for brain function. Unfortunately, carbohydrates are often unfairly maligned by the popular media. Carbohydrates are portrayed as villains and are blamed for everything from obesity to mental illness by various fad diets. Unless you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or another reason to cut back, you don’t want to miss out on the health benefits of whole grains. Whole grains provide fiber, a healthy plant-based protein, vitamins, minerals, and a variety of phytochemicals that can improve your health.

Some helpful tips include… Choose whole- grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, and low fat popcorn, more often.

PROTEIN Total protein intake is usually adequate in the diet of most adolescents and young adults in America, but a few groups, such as new vegetarians and chronic dieters, are at risk for deficiency. Protein needs for adolescents and young adults are approximately 0.8 gm per kg of body weight and can range from 45 to 59 gm per day according to the Dietary Reference Intakes. These needs can be higher for larger individuals and those with increased needs due to athletic training. One to 1.5 gm protein per kg of body weight may be needed to meet the needs of active young people. Eat lean or low fat meat, chicken, turkey, and fish.

Fish is high in protein, low in saturated fat, and high in omega 3 fats. Omega 3 fats are actually good fats that reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of heart disease. I recommend eating fish twice a week. To avoid contaminants, I would choose wild caught fish over farm raised fish.

Nuts and Seeds are one of my favorite sources of protein. They are a great energy-boosting snack. They are crunchy, flavorful and satisfying. They are great additions to cooked dishes, and they are also nutritional powerhouses, rich in protein, fiber, calcium, and other nutrients, as well as a healthy dose of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Nuts and Seeds are my typical Go-To Snack. The protein helps keep me full, and they won’t cause a sugar crash like many of the other non-nutritious already prepackaged snack foods.

Eggs have gotten a bad rap in the past for being high in cholesterol. But new studies are showing that even though eggs are high in cholesterol, the effect of egg consumption on blood cholesterol is minimal when compared with the effect of trans and saturated fats. Most healthy people can eat up to 7 eggs a week. Eggs contain a powerhouse of disease fighting carotenoids and complex B vitamins.

FATS The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for fat is 25 to 35 percent of total calories for children age four to 18 and 20 to 35 percent of total calories for adults over age 18 (National Academies Press, 2002). Most adolescents these days exceed the recommended intake, and they aren’t consuming healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and the oils listed below.

Olive oil contains antioxidants that can decrease oxidative stress and fight free radicals. Coconut oil contains both mono and polyunsaturated fats that can lower cholesterol and fight inflammation. Just keep in mind, a little oil goes a long way.

Overall a good goal of you daily caloric consumption is 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fat.

VITAMINS, MINERALS AND PHYTOCHEMICALS Fruit and vegetable intake is low in the adolescent and young adult population. Increased intake of fruits and vegetables can lower overall fat intake by replacing fat. Fruits and vegetables also contain nutrients and phytochemicals that are protective against heart disease and cancer. You need 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. You can put them in a smoothie, eat them raw, steam or roast them. God created a wide variety of fruits and vegetables for you to try and enjoy.

CALCIUM The need for calcium during adolescence and early adulthood is high. Nine to 18-year-olds need 1300 mg of calcium daily while 19- to 24-year-olds need 1000 mg daily.

Dairy foods provide calcium, potassium, protein and phosphorus, and is very helpful for bone health. If you’re not consuming dairy products daily for any specific reason, I would highly recommend supplementing with a good source calcium. Kefir is my favorite dairy product. It’s similar to yogurt, but it is fermented and one of the most probiotic rich foods on the planet. If you’re having any gastrointestinal issues, I highly recommend drinking 8oz of Kefir daily.

If you are wondering if you are consuming nutritious foods, the best way to figure it out….is to track your food with a food diary. This isn’t something you have to do forever. It’s simply a helpful method for you to evaluate and actually see what foods you are putting in your body. Most people don’t realize how much junk and how little healthy foods they are putting in their bodies until it is right in front of them.

If you are electronic savvy, there are a few apps out there that make keeping a food diary easy. In addition, these apps make it easy to see what percentage of carbs, protein, and fats you are consuming every day. MyFitnessPal and Lose It! are two apps worth considering.

Ok… so I know some days are just crazy and there isn’t time to pack food to go. But all fast food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. So when you are ordering your food…. Take a moment to ask yourself… Are you making food choices that will harm or benefit your body? Here are some goals to consider. Aim to eat a meal under 500 calories. Avoid fry foods. Hold the mayo, cheese and sour cream. You can easily save 100s of calories a day by avoiding an excess of these items. Ask for salad dressing on the side so you can monitor how much you actually consume. Order an extra serving of vegetables so you fill up on nutrient dense foods. Drink water or milk instead of sugar drinks with little nutrient value. Don’t Super Size anything. Split a meal with a friend. Lots of restaurants serve an abundance of food, so we tend to eat everything on our plate when our bodies don’t need that much food. Skip the appetizer, bread, and chips. Again, often times these foods don’t have a lot of nutritional value but do add up the calories fast.

Let’s look at a few common fast food restaurants and the better food choices you can choose when eating there. First up is Subway. Subway is one of my family’s favorite. It’s our most frequent visited fast food place. Subway has lots of 6 inch sub options that are well under 500 calories. Keep in mind, if you add mayo and cheese, you will add at least 200 more calories. In addition, chips and a drink will quickly add up the calories too. My favorite is the oven roasted chicken breast and I top it with a ton of veggies.

We can’t leave out McDonalds. McDonalds is very popular but it’s my least favorite place honestly. However, McDonalds still has quite a few menu items that are below the 500 calorie goal. You won’t go wrong with a smoothie or yogurt parfait. They also have oatmeal offered all day and an egg white McMuffin that won’t destroy your weight loss goal on the first meal of the day.

In my house everyone loves Dairy Queen’s treats, but sweets can destroy your weight loss goal in just a few bites. I am a solid believer in everything in moderation, but you still have to be smart when you are splurging if you don’t want to have to run 10 miles the next day. I was impressed that Dairy Queen had quite a few treats under 300 calories. A fudge bar only has 50 calories. The Cherry StarKiss Bar has 80 calories. A DQ ice cream sandwich has 190 calories. And a small banana split blizzard only has 290 calories. In comparison to a small Reese’s peanut butter cup blizzard that has 580 calories, a banana split blizzard isn’t that bad. Just so you know a large Reese’s peanut butter blizzard has over 1,000 calories and 43 grams of fat. So don’t Go Large!

In summary, Total nutrient needs are higher during adolescence than any other time in the lifecycle. Optimal nutrition is vital for achieving full growth potential. Failure to consume adequate nutrition at this time can result in delayed sexual maturation and can arrest or slow linear growth.

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