Young adults’ bodies have very demanding nutritional requirements because of physical and mental development that you go through from about the age of 12. At this age you also have much more control over what you eat than you did as a child, so make sure you know what your body needs, it will affect the way your body and brain develop.
If you want to have a healthy diet try to:
- Increase the amount of cereals and starchy foods such as wholemeal bread, rice, noodles, cereals, potatoes and pasta
- Increase the amount of fruit and vegetables, i.e., eat five portions or more a day
- Eat more regular, smaller meals rather than snacking
- Reduce the amount of foods containing fat
- Reduce the amount of foods and drinks containing sugar
- Reduce the amount of foods containing salt
Why bother with breakfast?
Breakfast being the most important meal of the day is not just an old wives’ tale, it’s absolutely true. By breakfast, often you will have gone without food for about 12 hours. You need to re-stock your body with nutrients and fuel to replace what it has used up over night ready for the day’s activity.
If you don’t eat until lunch, or even until break, your body will get in the habit of storing what food you put in it later in the day ready for the following morning without food, rather than using it up effectively. It will leave you with less energy all day and you could be more likely to put on weight.
What if I want to eat healthily and lose weight?
As a teenager, remember that your body is still growing and your body shape is likely to change. If you feel you need to loose some weight, have a look at the lifebytes website from the link on this page. They have top ten really useful tips for young people who want to lose weight whilst making sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to grow. Don’t try fad or crash diets and risk cutting out these essential nutrients.
Healthy diet for vegetarians
It is perfectly healthy to eat a vegetarian, or even a vegan (no animal products whatsoever) diet, providing you make up for the nutrients from animal products that you miss out on through other foods.
Red meat, fish and poultry are the main sources of protein. As a vegetarian, you need to eat more alternative sources of protein such as milk, cheese, eggs and pulses like lentils and beans.
You also need to make sure you are taking in enough iron. The main non-meat sources of iron are pulses, cereals and bread fortified with iron, and green leafy vegetables. You should also eat plenty of foods containing vitamin C, especially with a meal containing iron rich foods as it is thought to help us absorb the iron.
A healthy diet is only part of the story. You should take regular exercise, aiming for 1 hour of moderate exercise everyday. Moderate exercise makes you warm and breathe more deeply. It doesn’t have to be all in one go e.g. you could spend 10 minutes walking to school, 20 minutes playing basketball at lunch, 10 minutes walking home from school and 20 minutes dancing around in your room to music.
Who can help?
There are some really useful websites to find out more about what makes up a healthy diet for teenagers and young adults. Try the links to any of the sites below:
Teen Life Check is a quick and easy online quiz for 12-15 year-olds that lets you check out your health and lifestyle. Your answers and results are confidential and you’ll get some useful advice on issues such as bullying, stress, home life, crime, healthy eating, exercise, safe sex, drugs, alcohol and more. Visit www.teenlifecheck.co.uk.