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Food for Adolescence

The period of transition from childhood to adulthood is called adolescence with accelerated physical, biochemical and emotional development. During adolescence, the influences of eating habit are numerous. The growing independence of adolescents, increased participation in social life and a generally busy schedule of activities have a great impact on food intake.

Diet of teenagers is bizarre and unbalanced. The concern about the size, shape of the body, sexual development, vitality, skin and attractiveness are great and there is a sense of freedom to make their own decisions which is reflected in their choices of foods. Further, family conflicts and emotional problems may arise due to feeling of social inadequacy or pressures of school and college. Therefore, Irregular meal times and snacking in between meals becomes a common practice.

Choices of food are important. Teenagers are vulnerable to the influences of advertising messages related to food. Most of the foods are empty calories and lack other nutrients. Ease of getting readymade foods at fast food outlets and food stores make adolescents eat out more often

  • Breakfast: The most important meal of the day: Breakfast is frequently neglected and omitted more often by teenagers. Eating first thing in the morning benefits your thinking power and helps maintain a healthy body weight. However many people skip it, seeing it as a way to cut calories and lose weight. You could not do anything worse. Eating at breakfast time helps to stop you snacking on high calorie bars and confectionery at break time and so, can help keep the total calorie bill down.
  • Nutrition for teenage girls: Just as girls start to notice their body shape, nature takes a hand in seemingly making things more difficult. At around nine years of age, girls begin to catch up weight wise with boys and by 13 they probably weigh a bit more than a boy of the same age. As they mature, during the teenage years, they also gain more fat than boys. This is simply the way they are made and it makes shedding puppy fat very difficult. Adolescent girls with personal tensions concerning figure control cause them to follow unwise, self imposed crash diets for weight loss. Self starvation may result in complex and far reaching eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
  • Calcium and Iron Requirement :  As a teenager, girls need to pay special attention to calcium and iron. Restrained eating practices, such as avoiding milk is widely reported by teenage girls and can have a detrimental effect on bone growth. From the ages of 13-17 girls will gain as much as 90% of their bone density.
  • Calcium:  Milk, cheese and yoghurt are the best sources of calcium and the need for these foods is higher than at any other time (except pregnancy when it is the same as it is for you now). Teenage girls need the equivalent of a 400 ml of ordinary milk each day. This can be made up of milk on breakfast cereal, and milk in milkshakes or smoothies, curds, cottage cheese etc. Calcium does not have to come from milk alone as cheese, yoghurt, drumsticks, fish, broccoli, spinach also contain calcium. A glass of milk, a bowl of yoghurt and 30 gms of cheese, each have a similar amount of calcium. You need any five of these each day to maximize your chances of reaching your genetic potential.
  • Iron:  Almost a third of teenage girls have low iron intake. Anemia is prevalent among adolescents, especially girls as there is additional iron loss due to menstruation which becomes significant from 13 years onwards. Iron is found in meats and also found in plant foods like green leafy vegetables, soyabean, and jaggery but one need to combine these with vitamin C rich foods, to increase its absorption.
  • Puberty comes sooner for overweight girls: Pediatricians have long noted a correlation between overweight and “early menarche” (first period) in young girls. Overweight and obesity in young girls appears to speed puberty. Girls who experience their first period at a relatively young age are predisposed to become obese as adults. Childhood obesity helps drive both early puberty and adult weight troubles. For parents concerned about the potential for obesity in their daughter’s future, “the focus should be on the child being overweight rather than the timing of her first period,”
  • Nutrition for teenage boys: Between the ages of 13 and 17 most boys will gain around 17kg. That is quite a growth spurt in just four years and a lot of food is required to achieve this growth. Teenage boys are known for their enormous appetites and they usually eat so much food that they rarely lack any particular vitamin or mineral. As with all things in life, however, there are limits for good health. Too much of any one sort of food will lead to an imbalance. Weight gain or even obesity can result from eating too much. Currently about half the adult population (male and female) is overweight. Being overweight has serious drawbacks for young people. One is more likely to be picked on or bullied if you are overweight and less likely to do well at sport. A wide variety of food is the key to a healthy diet, especially if you are a male between 13 and 17 years.
  • Nutritional Balance : Whole cereals should be taken in good quantities. These starchy foods are energy giving foods, which are needed in large amounts to support the growth spurt of your teenage years. Good proteins should also be included in the form of milk, pulses, meats, fish etc. You need 2 glasses of milk throughout the day, as well as a piece of fruit or a serving of vegetables and bowl of pulse or fish at each meal. You should be eating four or more servings of fruit and vegetables every day. When energy intake needs to be high, eating between meals helps you get there. Snacking is good for you because it helps keep your energy levels constant. Snacking is good for you as long as the snacks are healthy and can be in form of fruit. Some snacks are better than others at supplying energy, vitamins and minerals. Healthy snacks to choose from include a bowl of breakfast cereal (at any time), a sandwich of whole wheat  bread and peanut butter, beans sprout ,cottage cheese strings, yoghurt, a yoghurt drink, a milkshake,  fruit, a fruit shake.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise is important so that you get a balance between the energy you eat and the energy you expend (use up). Exercise would also help in building the muscles, as they are important to impress the girls.

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