According to the CDC, the obesity rate of teens has tripled in the last 30 years. In 1980, 5% of the teen population in the US was obese. That rate rose to 18% in 2010. The habits and choices that start in childhood and the teen years carry over into adulthood. By making changes to your child’s diet early on, a lifetime of good habits may form.
Eating three small meals a day and supplementing with one to three good quality snacks only when hungry is a sound way to avoid overeating. People have a tendency to choose poorer quality food, grab what is quick and easy and spend less time contemplating their choices when they are hungry. Eating three well-planned, small meals of high quality foods will help to fuel the body continuously. Snacks should only be eaten when hungry between meals and not as an absolute necessity.
Staying away from all processed foods whether it’s boxed cereal or quick cooking oats or grits or freezer waffles in the morning, frozen meals at lunch and boxed or canned side dishes at dinner will help to improve the nutritional value of the calories consumed. Eating whole foods that are freshly prepared decreases calories, sodium and sugar in your diet.
Kicking the habit of sugary drinks and snacks may improve your teen’s health and waistline. Recently, one of our dietitians helped a patient eliminate 600 calories from their diet just by asking them to stop chewing sugary gum all day. Think of the calories that are consumed when having a 12oz soda (140 calories), Starbucks caffe latte (290 calories) or an 8 oz. bottle of apple juice (120 calories). All of these drinks contain empty calories along with a lot of sugar and no nutritional value.
Teaching sound nutritional principles to teens now may help them to remain within a normal BMI (25-29.9) for a lifetime.
By: Molly McBrayer, Clinical Manager Bariatric and Metabolic Services