Fast food can be a tempting option for meals, especially if your teenager has a busy schedule. Although the options are temporarily filling and relatively inexpensive, regularly eating fast food can negatively affect your teenager’s health. It is important to understand the problems it can cause, along with ways you can encourage your teen to make healthy choices at fast food restaurants.
According to HealthyChildren.org, teenage boys typically need 2,800 calories a day and teenage girls need 2,200 calories a day. If too much of your teen’s calorie intake comes from fast food and junk food instead of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and monounsaturated fats, she will be missing out on the nutrients she needs for energy and development. While eating fast food occasionally won’t affect her ability to obtain nutrients, eating it frequently or for most meals can be harmful.
Fast food’s large portions and high number of calories contribute to weight gain. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, just one large soda and french fries can be more than 600 calories, which can be a considerable chunk of your teen’s recommended daily calorie intake. Regularly eating fast food can lead to obesity, which will place your teen at increased risk for obesity in adulthood.
Fast foods are high in fat and salt. Eating foods containing saturated fats can lead to clogged arteries, among other problems. Instead of these unhealthy fats, your teen needs foods such as olives and nuts that are rich in monounsaturated fat, which is necessary for development. Additionally, foods high in salt such as cheeseburgers and fries can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Instead of relying on fast food, encourage your teen to look for convenience foods that are healthier such as cut raw vegetables, dried fruit or rice cakes. KidsHealth.org also recommends looking at the nutrition facts at a fast food restaurant ahead of time and planning to order low-fat and low-calorie options. Remind your teen that in a pinch he can choose to order smaller grilled items instead of large fried options.