Good News About Teen NutritionThe Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.
Finally, some good news about kids' diets. A recent study in the October 2013 issue of the journal Pediatrics found U.S. adolescents are eating better overall and that obesity rates in this age group have leveled off.
The study crunched data from a national survey conducted every four years from 2001 to 2009. Researchers asked kids ages 11 to 16 about their eating and exercise habits, and recorded teens' heights and weights.
During the 8-year study period, adolescents consumed more vegetables, ate breakfast more often, got more physical activity and watched less television than in previous years. Teens also reported drinking somewhat fewer soft drinks and consuming less candy. It also appears that fewer teens qualified as obese, perhaps one of the most hopeful of the study's findings.
On the Right Track
While the results are largely encouraging, there's room for improvement. Most teens still fall short on several expert lifestyle recommendations, including the following:
• Body weight. Older teenagers were heavier, on average, than younger children.
• Exercise. Teens need at least an hour a day of physical activity. The survey found that most kids engaged in 60 minutes of exercise fewer than five days a week.
• Fruit and vegetable intake. In the study, younger children ate more fruits and vegetables. Older teens consumed more low-nutrient, higher-calorie foods and less produce.
Ways to Help Teens Eat Right
As adolescents age, they gain independence and make more choices outside the home. Schools, communities, and other organizations play a role in keeping teens on the path to better lifestyle habits. However, while it ultimately takes a village to raise a healthy child, healthy eating starts at home.
Every teen is different, but most are motivated by having more energy for school and sports, and by wanting to look their best. Eating healthier foods and exercising can help them get what they want. Here are some tips for helping your teen to better health:
• Model a healthy lifestyle. Educate kids with your actions. Show them that you value healthy eating and physical activity and help them develop the eating and exercise skills they can use now, and later on in life, to stay healthy.
• Snack healthy. Teens have busy schedules that don't always allow for full meals. Provide them with the between-meal fuel they need to keep going at school and afterwards, such as whole grain cereal with Hood Milk , Greek yogurt and fruit, and trail mix made with whole grain cereal, dried fruit, and chopped nuts or seeds.
• Make time for family meals. Dinner is a great time to connect with each other over healthy food including low-fat dairy, produce, and whole grains. If the entire family can't make for dinner every night, try eating breakfast together.
• Move with your teen. Adolescents may be involved in organized sports, but plenty still fail to get the minimum 60 minutes of recommended daily physical activity. Get your family moving more with activities you can do together such as walking, biking, in-line skating, and tennis. Working out releases stress and gives you a chance to bond with your children, too.