YMCA Healthy Living Magazine winter 2021 - Page 7

Teenagers need fats
Fats play an important role in growth and development – not to mention they make up nearly 60 % of the brain , nervous system and membranes of all cells in the body ! Fats are used to make a number of hormones and carry fat-soluble vitamins ( A , D , E and K ) through the body . It ’ s also important for teens to understand that gaining some body fat is a very normal and healthy part of becoming a teenager .
Aim to include plenty of healthy fat sources such as avocado , extra virgin olive oil , nuts , nut butters and oily fish . Current recommendations for this age group include full fat dairy products , whilst limiting fast foods and highly processed foods – as these contain higher saturated fats and lower healthy fats .
Carbohydrates are an important fuel
Carbohydrates are often made out to be the villain by diet culture ; however , they are a necessary part of our diet and are the body ’ s preferred source of fuel . These include fruit , grain products like bread , breakfast cereal , pasta and oats , as well as starchy vegetables and legumes .
Carbohydrates provide glucose , which is especially important for our brain , heart and kidneys . If your teen isn ’ t eating enough of these foods , they are likely to feel tired , lethargic , have difficulty concentrating and experience mood swings . This is their body ’ s way of telling them something is wrong ! Low carbohydrate diets are not suitable for the high-energy needs of teenagers .
Fibre for gut health
The importance of carbohydrates doesn ’ t just come down to the energy they provide . Fibre is another important macronutrient found in carbohydrate-rich foods like fruits , cereals , grains and vegetables . Choosing whole grain options ( rather than highly processed or white varieties ) provides vital fibre for regular bowel motions and good gut health .
FATS PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT – NOT TO MENTION THEY MAKE UP NEARLY 60 % OF THE BRAIN , NERVOUS SYSTEM AND MEMBRANES OF ALL CELLS IN THE BODY !
Protein for growth
Protein is the building block for many tissues of the body , not just muscles ! Protein is also a vital macronutrient for development , growth , repair and a healthy immune system . Amino acids from protein are a key component of antibodies and other immune molecules , digestive enzymes and hormones .
Some great protein sources include eggs , fish , lean meats , legumes , nuts and poultry . But don ’ t forget : we also get protein from dairy products and soy alternatives .
Many of these foods also contain essential vitamins and minerals like iron , vitamin B12 and zinc . Red meat is a top source of iron and with teenage requirements being high ( especially for those who menstruate ) – regular weekly consumption is encouraged . Teenage girls have markedly higher iron needs than teenage boys .
Vegetarian and vegan diets
If your teen is vegetarian or vegan , being mindful of certain nutrients is important . Particular nutrients are harder to come by ( especially if all animal products are being omitted ) including calcium , iron , vitamin B12 and zinc . While plantbased diets absolutely can be nutritionally complete and healthy with careful planning , your teen is likely to need specific nutrition advice to help them eat the right foods to meet their needs .
Calcium for strong bones
Last but not least , calcium ! Up to the age of 25 to 30 , our skeleton is laying down bone mass and reaching optimal strength and density . Calcium is one nutrient that is key for optimal bone development , as it reduces the chance of poor bone density later in life .
Foods rich in calcium include apricots , bony fish ( e . g . sardines , tinned salmon ), dairy foods ( cheese , milk , yoghurt ), dried figs , green leafy vegetables , some nuts and plant-based alternatives that have been fortified with calcium ( e . g . tofu , soymilk ).
Final thoughts
The teen years are a key time for development , growth and establishing healthy eating habits and a good relationship with food . Consuming a wide variety of foods from the core food groups is the best way to meet teenage requirements . As always , we recommend you consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian for individual advice to help your teen .
YMCA HEALTHY LIVING MAGAZINE 7