Teenage Diet

Teenage Diet

More and more women these days are having problems during pregnancy and are having health issues related to the uterus and ovaries. Can incorrect diet or too much of dieting be a related cause? Yes, it indeed is.  Incorrect lifestyle habits prominent among them dieting, are having long term effects on the health of women. 

To check this diet fad one has to trace steps to the childhood years because the foundation for ‘wanting to diet’, ‘wanting to look thin’ starts from here. When little girls are exposed to Barbie dolls, when the clothes selected for them are figure hugging and when adults around them talk  about slim is beautiful and slim is healthy, unconsciously adults have laid a foundation in the child’s mind about ‘slimness’. Nothing wrong with being slim, but health wise the focus should be on being fit and healthy and not only on losing a certain amount of weight or being ‘size zero’. 

Teenage girls today are skipping a meal, going on strict diet regimes that are unhealthy and lead to dizziness, lack of correct nutrients and low immunity to diseases. When the body does not get its correct nourishment it is naturally going to have low immunity. Another important negative impact of these diets is low haemoglobin levels in girls which lead to many health and other complications in later life.

Dieting and incorrect diets also takes its toll on the skin and hair and many girls have dry, flaky skin, and wrinkle more early. Somewhere school and college learning should also focus albeit interestingly on food facts, what is good for the body and what isn’t. More often than not, curriculum teaches about food groups but it is so boring that children don’t pay attention to important facts. High school and junior college should have sessions on ‘food for thought’, in which nutritionists and dieticians should be called in to explain that skipping all calories is unhealthy as body as a daily requirement of calories and instead should be taught to count calories, so know what food has how many calories. 

Somewhere early eating habits unknowingly inculcated by parents before puberty are also responsible for excess weight in children, which at that stage is found to be ‘cute’ but then later becomes a bane for the growing adolescent  forcing him/her to go on unhealthy diet to ‘fit in’ both in his fashionable clothes and friend circle. Mothers especially need to be careful about the fast food or junk food habits that are being cultivated in their children. Fries, fried food, soft drinks, pizzas, ice creams are slowly but surely creating a future need to reduce weight at all costs. 

German educationist Rudolf Steiner divided human learning into three stages, he said that from age 1 to 7 children learn by imitation, so then at this stage children should see their parents and important adults eat well, have good diet habits, because at this age if they see important adults in their life dieting or giving importance to ‘thin’ then they will also learn to do that. From age 7 to 14 children learn by authority so it is at this time that parents must be extremely strict with children about their food habits. Eating at home, eating together, no junk food (or maybe only once a month) are all habits that should be strictly enforced at this age because the next phase is from 14 years onwards where human beings learn by independence, so at this stage it would be very difficult to teach them new habits or to change habits, as it would lead to rebellion. 

Keeping this simple philosophy in mind parents can guide children in their food habits and ensure that kids do not go on unhealthy diets that can cause lasting damage. 

Some common tips for food habits in teenagers

  1. Anything that is canned, in tetra packs or packaged food cannot be good, have fresh food. Avoid processed foods- as they have certain chemicals that cause irritability, hyperactivity, depression and lack of attention.
  2. Adopt a ‘less sugar’ diet. Natural sugars, which means the sugar already present in the food is good and healthy it is the added sugar to all foods which is dangerous. Don’t use artificial sweeteners as many of them have a chemical that leads to kidney stones? 
  3. Eat  foods raw – every meal must have raw fruits or vegetables- salads and fruit salads are good but not the packaged kind as they are unhealthy and may be already lost their nutrients
  4. Reduce ‘caffeine’ consumption; too much of coffee dehydrates the brain. 
  5. Drink water, because water…..
    1. …helps dissolve vitamins
    2. …makes digestion easy
    3. …maintains body temperature
    4. …has oxygen content. Water has oxygen. Oxygen is required for proper blood circulation. Proper blood circulation keeps the blood healthy and moving. This in turn leads to an active and attentive brain.
  6. Use food combinations- we all know that the body needs energy; well body will convert the food into energy only when the fats, carbohydrates and proteins are present in the right combination. So teenagers need to understand why fats, carbohydrates and proteins are required-

Why does the body require carbohydrates?

  • Main  source  of energy –get converted into glucose
  • Brain depends on glucose for energy
  • Skipping breakfast –causes blood sugar deficiency-results in impaired cognitive ability, reduces attention span
  • Only 4 hours of glucose stored in the liver- hence food required every 4 hours
  • Fibre- important for digestive system, maintains sugar levels

Why proteins?

  • Helps growth, repair and maintenance
  • Helps make haemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen 
  • Helps in making disease fighting antibodies
  • Provide energy if carbohydrates are less

Why fats?

  • Source of energy
  • Helps fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K to get transported through the blood. 

Unhealthy teenagers will lead to unhealthy adults and the cycle will continue so it is important that teenagers today understand what is good for their body and are educated about it to empower them to take correct decisions about their diet, fads and fashion and do not get carried away by commercials, media drives and friend circle. 

Dr. Swati Popat Vats
Parenting Mentor and Coach

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