Before our children begin school it is so important to teach them good nutrition because once they are out of our sight, it is up to them to make good food choices. School lunches are filled with processed meats and breads, and while some are moving to a more healthier array, many are still stuck in the dark ages. Children are also influenced by their friends, but remember, their family is their biggest influence they have in their life. They might get a job, or have an allowance that will allow them the freedom to buy McDonalds or whatever else they might desire. Of course we have no control over what they do, they are their own people, but as a parent we have an obligation to teach them right from wrong, whether it be in the classroom or the cafeteria. As a parent we need to understand, however, that if we say a child can’t have something it makes them want that something even more. So keeping some chocolate covered nuts around, dried fruit, and making sweet fruit smoothies teaches them that they CAN have treats every now and then.
Dieting is not healthy for young adults, even though there is pressure from peers, and from school to look a certain way. Girls may feel pressure from peers to be thin and to limit what they eat, while boys, and to a lesser extent, girls, may diet to “make weight” for a particular sport. It is important for teens to stick to a healthy diet and get lots of physical activity. A healthy diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lean proteins (my preference is plant based proteins), low-fat dairy products (imo its better to avoid all dairy but if you disagree then low-fat is the way to go, almond milk, rice milk, soy milk and hemp milk are all viable other options to explore), beans, lentils and healthy fats from olive oil, avocado, nuts and fish. It is also important for teens to stay hydrated and drink water throughout the day
Calorie needs vary from teen to teen, depending on gender, activity level and genetics. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most active female teens need approximately 2,400 calories per day, and most active male teens need approximately 2,800 calories per day. Encourage them to eat snacks between meals and to try not to go over 4 hours without eating. This will help keep their energy up and help them to stay focused in school.
Supplementation may be necessary during growth spurts, look for ones that are natural and balanced. Be wary of supplements that taste like candy as they can instill bad habits in the young.