Balance is the key. By Suman Bajpai No mummy, I don’t want to eat this dal roti, I want something more interesting and tasty like pizza or burger. Instead of preparing sprouts, why don’t you prepare some sandwiches for my breakfast?” These sentences will sound you familiar if you are a parent of a teenager. Nowaday, the amount of junk food teenagers consume is really scary because it is unhealthy and not at all good for the development of the teenagers. The increasing competition, the pressure to perform beyond the achievable, unhealthy eating routines and junk food – there is definitely a reason to worry for the parents.
Their body needs certain nutrients to feel well because of what they go through each day. The most important meal is breakfast. Breakfast is even more important if you aren’t eating lunch on a regular basis, and are waiting until after college or until dinner to eat.
Special nutrient needs
Their body needs a daily supply of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to get the fuel it needs for energy and optimum health. “Adolescence is one of the most challenging times in human development. Sudden changes create special nutritional needs. Adolescents are considered nutritionally vulnerable for several reasons. First, they have an increased demand for nutrients because of the dramatic increase in physical growth and development. Second, the changes in lifestyle and food habits affect nutrient intake and needs. Third, adolescents have special nutrient needs associated with participation in sports, development of an eating order, excessive dieting which is commonly seen,” says dietician Dr Ruchira Chabra.
Experts say that the key to healthy eating is the time-tested advice of balance, variety and moderation. In short, this means eating a wide variety of foods without getting too many calories, or too much of any one nutrient. Teenagers need more than 40 different nutrients for good health. Their daily diet should include bread and other wholegrain products, fruits, vegetables, juices, dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, and other protein foods.
Protein is a primary component of our muscles, hair, nails, skin, eyes, and internal organs, especially the heart and brain. Protein foods do not make the blood glucose go like carbohydrates do. Protein is needed for growth, for healthy red blood cells, and much more. Protein foods include eggs, cheese, soy products, fish, beans, nuts, seeds, chicken, turkey, beef, and pork. If you are a vegetarian, choose soy products, beans, and nuts to satisfy your protein needs.
“Balanced diet is that which contains food from all food groups in such quantities and proportions that the needs for all nutrients are adequately met and an extra allowance is made as an allowance of safety. So, one should avoid fat diets or any other diet plan as they restrict you to one food and lack in important minerals and vitamins which are vital part of our diet,” explains Dr Ruchira.
Components of balanced diet are 60% of calories from carbohydrates, 20% of calories from proteins, 20% of calories from fats (10 per cent from unsaturated fats and less than 10% from saturated fats), 30gms fibre, healthy food choices (from all food groups).
Carbohydrates are our main source of energy and play an important role in the functioning of our nervous system, muscles, and internal organs. Carbohydrate foods include fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, and beans. “The foods you should eat in limited amounts are ones that contain sugar, such as packaged cookies, cakes, soda-these sugars are called simple carbohydrates; they have a negative effect on your blood sugar levels and your moods as well,” suggests Ruchira.
Fats are a form of energy reserve and insulation in your body and burned to give energy to the body. Below are some guidelines to choose good fats in your diet:
Iron is an essential element during periods of rapid growth, adolescence particularly girls have low hemoglobin concentrations with the onset of menstrual cycle. Increased iron is necessary for various processes occurring in the body. Good sources are rice flakes, Glv’s (mint, palak, bathua, and methi), meat, fish and poultry, nuts and jaggery, whole dals like kala chana, lobia, soy bean, and moth. A teenager requires 30mg iron a day.
Calcium is very important mineral. It is required for the formation and maintenance of skeleton and teeth. It is also required for muscle contraction to make limbs move, for heart muscle contraction and blood clotting. “Good sources of calcium are milk and milk products, whole dals, green leafy vegetables, peas, beans, egg yolk and fish. A teenager requires 400mg calcium in a day,” says Ruchira.
Water is essential
Eat a good breakfast and at least one other healthy meal each day. That meal should contain a good source of protein, fresh vegetables, and wholegrains (e.g. brown rice, barley, millet, wholewheat, and oats). Make an effort to eat foods that don’t come prepackaged or prepared. Read the nutrition labels on the packaged foods you do eat to learn more about the food’s sodium and fat content, as well as the many ingredients that are contained in the packaged foods.
Water is an essential component for the physiological processes of digestion, absorption, and excretion. It plays a key role in the structure and function of the circulatory system and acts as a transport medium for nutrients and all body substances. It also helps in flushing away all the toxic constituents from the body. A teenager requires 2 litres water in a day to stay healthy and fit.
Along with choosing and eating more healthy foods, begin to exercise each day for at least 10 to 15 minutes, unless you already have a physically active lifestyle. Whatever physical activity appeals to you, make it part of your daily routine. It will lift your spirits and improve your moods. Combine the exercise with healthy, fresh foods and you’ll be surprised at how much better and more energetic you feel. “Physical activity helps to reduce cardiovascular risks factors by reducing LDL and increasing HDL. Regular exercise helps to control weight, develop lean body mass, reduce body fat. Walking for 30-40 minutes is extremely beneficial in maintaining ideal body weight,” avers Ruchira.
Important dietary habits
Avoid ‘diet thinking’- as there are no good foods and bad foods. All foods can be part of healthy eating when taken in moderation.
‘Don’t skip your meals’- rather eat small and frequent meals. Eat foods from different food groups (wholegrains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products) to meet your nutritional needs.
‘Sugars’ – avoid getting too much from aerated drinks, syrup-based drinks as they just provide you with empty calories without any essential nutrients. Include liquids in the form of lime water, coconut water, buttermilk, vegetable juices, fruit juices, etc.
‘Learn simple ways to cook food’ – try steamed, baked, saute, grilling, micro waving, boiling as healthy ways to cook food instead of deep frying.
‘Make your meal more plant-based -consume a big bowl of raw salad at least twice a day to increase the fibre intake. Avoid adding oil or processed salad dressing. One can use lemon juice, salt, pepper, vinegar, herbs, yoghurt, mint, etc. to make healthy and tasty salad.
Workout – work out daily for 30-40 minutes is extremely beneficial in maintaining ideal body weight.
Soy shake: Combine a cup of vanilla, chocolate, or plain soymilk (or use cow’s milk if you prefer) in a blender with 1/2 banana, 2 ice cubes and blend. Add 1 scoop of soy or whey protein powder.
Wholegrain toast with peanut butter: The peanut butter should give you the protein you need to sustain your energy throughout the morning. Fried eggs, scrambled, poached, or hard-boiled with wholegrain toast; 1 or 2 eggs will provide you with a great protein source to begin your day and the wholegrain toast gives you the carbohydrates for energy.
Calcium fortified orange juice: Drink this before your breakfast or along with it to get the added calcium and vitamin C.
Fresh fruit: It’s great to start your day with fresh fruit whenever possible-an orange, pear, strawberries, banana, watermelon, peaches, blueberries-combine your favourite fruit with a container of yogurt.