Healthy Diet for Teenage Girls

According to the Centers for Disease Control, adolescent obesity increased from 5 to 18.1 percent between 1976 to 2008 34. Teenage girls are particularly sensitive to their weight and suffer psychological as well as health consequences from being overweight. Some teenage girls of normal weight develop disordered eating habits such as skipping meals, starving themselves or binging in an effort to become this. A healthy diet for a teenage girl looks much like that for an adult, but because she is still growing, nutritional balance and establishing good habits are even more important.

Health Consequences of Poor Eating Habits

Being obese in adolescence potentially results in a lifetime of health problems. Overweight teenagers often develop early onset of chronic conditions such as:

  • heart disease
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • type 2 diabetes
  • asthma
  • sleep apnea

The Centers for Disease Control also point out that being overweight can undermine a youth's self esteem, setting them up for poor academic and social performance 34.

A Healthy Diet

A healthy diet for a teenage girl features a balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Do not shy away from healthy fats, like those found in nuts, olive oil and avocados; obtaining about 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories from these sources helps with vitamin absorption, healthy skin and hair and hormone regulation. Carbohydrates, like whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, provide energy and nutrition. Because they digest slowly, eating about 50 to 60 percent of your daily calories from these good sources will keep you from getting too hungry during the day. Calcium, available in low fat dairy such as milk, cottage cheese and yogurt and in dark green vegetables, is especially important to support growing bones and prevent weak bones later in life.

Types of Foods to Include

Giving girls the tools to make healthy choices can help them manage their weight and gradually lose pounds; or perhaps prevent them from developing unnatural eating habits that can explode into a full-blown eating disorder. Teenage girls are more likely to skip meals because they are self consciousness eating in front of other people or because they believe it will help them lose weight.

Strive to eat breakfast every day because it fuels your morning and prevents overeating later in the day. Choose whole wheat toast with peanut butter or pour a bowl of whole grain cereal with low fat milk. If you run out the door, grab a low-fat string cheese and a banana, or blend an all-fruit smoothie to pour into a to-go cup.

At the lunch line, your choices might be limited but skip the fries and burger or pizza and go for a grilled chicken sandwich with a baked potato instead. Better yet, bring your own lunch that might include a turkey sandwich on whole wheat, yogurt and fresh fruit. Snack on fruit, small servings of trail mix, air-popped popcorn, or 200 calorie energy bars. Experiment with foods like cut-up vegetables and hummus.

At dinner, a teenage girl can help plan and prepare the meal. Whole grain pasta with marinara and a side salad can be made by the most novice of cooks.

Foods to Avoid

Let your teenager go shopping with you and choose products without “partially hydrogenated” oils in the ingredient list. Limit intake of refined carbohydrates though as well, like snack crackers, chips, muffins and cookies and white bread, because:

  • these offer limited nutrition
  • spike blood sugar

Other Strategies

Too much weight loss too fast can interfere with growth. Do not fall for fad diet claims and indulge in diet pills; these strategies are likely to fail and may be dangerous for still-growing youth. Labeling foods as “off-limits” can backfire and lead to bingeing or secretive eating. Learning to include all foods, but in moderation, helps a teenage girl successfully manage her weight. Keep teenagers active, for at least an hour a day.

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