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Nutrition: How to ensure teens get the vital nutrients they need

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The rush of hormones, the pressure of school and exams, and the stress of trying to fit in with cool kids means that teenage years can be a challenging one.

Your teenager’s body is undergoing major changes and their bodies are in great need of good nutrition. Also, they are more influenced by friends, other adults, and social media.

While it can be difficult to address changing nutritional needs without denigrating food or restricting it in unhealthy ways, we can help teens learn how food can help them feel better. The more we talk about how helpful it is, the better it teaches us what a healthy, balanced diet is and how to cook it.

Increased nutritional demand

There are certain nutrients that teens need more of now, as their bodies undergo puberty and change rapidly.

Bone nutrients such as calcium, boron, magnesium and vitamin A are very important from now until your early twenties when you reach peak lifetime bone mass.

Iron is important for all teenagers, but especially for girls who start menstruating. B vitamins for energy and metabolism, protein for growth, essential fats for hormonal balance and skin support, Zinc and iodine requirements for hormones and skin health also increase from around the age of 11.

Simple ways to help teenagers optimize their nutrition:

1. Cook

Teach teens the essential life skills of cooking. Start with some basics and go from there. Use the types of foods they like to eat as inspiration, such as spicy chicken noodles, fajitas, and spaghetti bolognese.

2. Low GI carbs

Switch to low GI carbs for the whole family – like brown rice, whole grain pasta, and black bread that provide a slow, sustained release of energy that fuels your body and brain.

3. Start the day off right

Set them up with a decent breakfast. Have some options at breakfast.

– eggs on toast

– Peanut butter and banana whole grain toast

– Overnight Oats with Berries and Seeds

– Yogurt with fruit and low-sugar granola

– Weetabix or shredded wheat

4. Snack food

Teenagers are hungry. Thanks to the growth spurt, they are increasing their caloric needs. Here are some good snack options:

– Yogurt

– cheese and crackers

– Nut butter on toast

– low sugar biscuits

– Serve with crackers or veggies

– Fruits – fresh or frozen for adding to snacks, smoothies, or yogurt

5. Good fat

Incorporate fatty fish into your family’s diet twice a week. Salmon or trout are good for dinner. Smoked mackerel patties are a perfect snack for smoked salmon with scrambled eggs or smoked salmon for a weekend breakfast. If this doesn’t work, we recommend an omega-3 fish oil supplement, or a vegan alternative.

Nut butters, ground seeds, and trail mixes are good options because teens consume very little nuts and seeds on average per day compared to other foods.

6. Red meat

Your teenager needs more iron, zinc and protein, and a very good way to achieve all three is to eat good quality red meat several times a week. Iron supplementation is recommended for

7. Cut the sugar

Teenagers eat 5% more than the recommended intake of non-dairy sugars (fruit juices, sucrose, glucose, etc.). Replacing sugary drinks with water, limiting sugary cereals, and eating less snacks will have a big impact on this.

When shopping, pay attention to food labels and choose low-sugar options. However, be careful not to substitute artificial sweeteners.