Why teenagers and older children need good nutrition and healthy food
Teenagers experience major physical changes during puberty. To fuel their physical changes, they require extra nutrition, so they must eat healthy food.
How much healthy food your child needs will depend on their activity level and developmental stage. You’ll also notice that your child’s appetite increases. This is their body’s way to tell them to eat more.
What are healthy foods for teenagers and older children?
Pre-teen and teenage food can be healthy. There are many fresh food options from the five food categories.
- Reduced-fat or dairy-free dairy products
Each food group contains different nutrients that your child needs for proper growth and development. We need to eat a variety of foods from all five food groups.
Vegetables and fruits
Fruits and vegetables provide energy for your child, vitamins and antioxidants. These nutrients can help your child protect against certain diseases later in their lives, such as heart disease and stroke, and even some cancers.
Encourage your child’s choice of fruits and vegetables for every meal and snack. You can include fruit and vegetables of all colors, textures, and tastes, as well as cooked and fresh.
Wash fruits to get rid of chemicals and dirt, but leave the edible skin on. The skin is rich in nutrients.
Teenagers may not like eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Being a role model for healthy eating can help. Your child will be more inclined to try new vegetables and fruits if they see you eating them. You can also encourage your child’s healthy eating habits by including lots of fruits and vegetables in the family’s meals.
Grain foods include bread, pasta, noodles, breakfast cereals and couscous. These foods provide energy for your child to grow, develop, and learn.
Grain foods with a low glycaemic index, such as wholegrain bread and pasta, will give your child more energy and help them feel fuller longer.
Low-fat dairy products and dairy-free options
Milk, cheese, and yoghurt are key dairy foods. These foods are rich in calcium as well as protein.
Your child will need more calcium as they reach puberty to maintain their bone density and strength for the future. Encourage your child to drink different types of dairy every day, such as milk, cheese slices and bowls of yogurt.
Your child must eat dairy-free food rich in calcium. This includes tofu, kale and bok choy. Some dairy alternatives may not be fortified with calcium. Make sure you read labels.
Protein-rich foods include lean beef, eggs, chicken, fish, eggs, legumes, chickpeas and tofu. These foods are essential for your child’s growth, muscle development, and especially during puberty.
These protein-rich foods are also rich in vitamins and minerals, such as iron and omega-3 fatty acids. This is especially important for adolescents.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids From Oily Fish help your child’s brain development.
- Iron is a way to help your child grow and develop muscle mass. Due to their periods, iron is more important for girls.
Protein-rich foods derived from animal sources also contain zinc, vitamin A12, and vitamin D12.
Include a variety of food groups in every meal and snack. For more information on daily food portions and recommendations, take a look at the illustrated dietary guides for children 9-11 and 12-13 and 14-18-year-olds illustrated dietary guidance for teens. If you have any concerns about your child’s eating habits, you can consult a dietitian.
For teenagers, healthy drinks
Water is the best drink to give your child. It is also the most affordable. Fluoride is added to most tap water for strong teeth.
For teenagers, reduced-fat milk is a great option. It is high in calcium, which is great for bone development.
Limitations on food and drink
Encourage your child not to eat sometimes foods. This will allow your child to eat more healthy, everyday foods.
Fast food, take-out, and junk food such as hot chips, potato chips and dim sims, pies and burgers, are all examples of “Sometimes” foods. You can also find cakes, pastries, cookies, lollies and biscuits.
These foods are high in sugar, salt, saturated fat, calories, and low in fibre. Teenagers who eat these foods regularly can be at greater risk for obesity, overweight, and other health problems like type-2 diabetes.
Your child should avoid sweet drinks such as fruit juice, cordials and sports drinks. Sweet drinks have high sugar content and low nutritional value.
Too many sweet drinks can cause obesity, unhealthy weight gain, and tooth decay. These sweet drinks can fill your child up, making them more hungry for healthier meals.
Drinks and foods containing caffeine are not recommended for teenagers or older children. This is because caffeine can alter the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Caffeine can also be used as a stimulant to give children artificial energy. Too much caffeine can lead to sleep problems and problems with concentration at school.
Caffeine-rich foods and beverages include tea, coffee, energy drinks, and chocolate.
Delicious and healthy alternatives to snacks and desserts
Encourage your child’s choice of healthy snacks. These can include nuts, cheese, low-fat yoghurt, fresh fruits or vegetables, such as carrot and celery sticks, rice cake, or wholegrain crackers, with dips such as hummus, salsa, or tzatziki.
The same applies to dessert at the meal’s end. Healthy options include yoghurt or slices of fruit. Make homemade banana bread if you’re looking for something unique. For special occasions, such as birthdays, save the really sweet stuff like chocolate and cakes.