“Eat Healthy, Stay Healthy!” this mantra for health applies to all age groups across all geographies. Eating healthy becomes more necessary in certain significant milestones of life; adolescence is one such phase. Keep reading to know why.
Adolescence: The threshold between childhood and adulthood that spans between the age of 10 to 19 sees fast growth both mentally and physically. Adolescents have established food choices and often eat food from outside. Their choices undergo transition just like their body as they spend time with friends exploring fast food and new cuisines.
While their nutritional needs are very high, their inclination to eat unhealthy foods and the psychology of being independent and making their decisions is high. As a parent or caregiver, you must gather information about their dietary needs and understand that you cannot impose them upon them. Instead, make friends with them and simply guide them with logic, informative resources, and set an inspiring example by following what you preach!
Let Us Know What Diet an Adolescent Body Needs:
WHY Is It Important
- Adolescents undergo major physical developments, in particular the reproductive and endocrine systems. They are still growing and need adequate nutrition to support growth.
- They need the energy to study/ work and be participative in co-curricular or social events.
- Being overweight or underweight is overwhelming for them, and they tend to explore fad diets and fancy diets/ supplements/ programs if they want to either lose or gain weight.
- Eating away from home and exploring fast food is common. The simple homemade food becomes less appetizing for them.
- The lifestyle devised at this age probably become a part of personality and stay for life. Healthy habits ensure a healthy body and prevent diabetes, hypertension, Osteoporosis at later stages in life.
- Poor adolescent diet may lead to anemia, delayed puberty and sexual maturity, stunted growth, and hormonal imbalance.
How to Ensure Adequate Nutrition:
- Adolescents need between 2200 to 2700 Calories every day.
- They need a balanced meal thrice a day and healthy snacks in between. Stock healthy ready to eat or quick to cook snacks like dry fruits, fruits, sautéed vegetables, sprouts, fermented food like dosa/idli/ appam as their hunger pangs are intense and patience low.
- Include protein-rich snacks made from paneer, tofu, curd, yogurt, legumes (like Cheakpea/ rajma/ moth). Have beans, pulses, seeds, and nuts in their daily diet.
- Keep sweets for occasional treats only.
- Include plenty of fruits daily. Fruits in raw and unprocessed form without sugar and fruits of all colours rather than just their favourites.
- Prefer to offer whole grains (e.g., Oats, quinoa) and millets instead of processed cereals.
- A typical meal platter/ thali of an adolescent should have various veggies and atleast three colours. Example- palak sabzi (green), Carrot salad (red), and Tuar dal (yellow).
- Include Eggs, grilled or roasted chicken/ fish/ mutton for non-vegetarians.
- Cook food in a mix of oil rather or keep changing oil periodically as each oil has a unique mix of fats necessary for bodily functions.
- Plenty of water (to thirst) and no carbonated/ sweetened drinks or juices (prefer whole fruit)
- Support a good diet with plenty of physical activities for at least two hours a day.
An adequate and balanced diet in adolescence is a foundation for a lifetime of health. The bird must strengthen its wings before it sets in flight!