Nutrition and health during adolescence

Adolescence is a phase during which the adolescent goes through psychosocial changes that may affect his food habits and eating behaviors. We will discuss the most common nutritional issues among teenagers and try to provide some approaches to help you deal with them correctly.

  • Irregular consumption of meals/meal skipping/dieting:

This problem is commonly seen among female teenagers who become too influenced by the media and start developing disturbed perception of their body image, making them think they are overweight or obese whereas their weight is absolutely normal. These adolescents skip a lot of meals especially breakfast which is essential to give them energy in order to stay focused during school classes. Some of them might also start using diet pills, or following extremely restrictive diets, or even become anorexic or bulimic. All of these acts will lead to several nutrient deficiencies and affect their growth. Treating these behaviors are multidisciplinary, which means involving the help of a psychologist, a doctor and a nutritionist.

 

  • Excessive snacking/fast-food eating:

This problem has several causes: becoming influenced by their peers and trying to “fit in”, eating at the school cafeteria and buying snacks from the vending machines which sell unhealthy foods, hanging out in fast food restaurants especially for the low cost of their foods and of course the influence of the media and adds. In order to solve this issue, the parents and family members can do several things: being a healthy parent yourself is very important because you are often your teenager’s first role model which he/she imitates, planning family meals where you can not only communicate more with you kids but also teach them how to eat in a healthy way, setting limits on consuming unhealthy foods by giving them a certain budget per week to buy them or by reducing the purchase of unhealthy snacks and bringing them home.

As a mom, make them get used to drinking water/milk/milkshakes/fresh fruit juices instead of sodas, ordering grilled platters rather than fried ones, choosing baked potato chips/fruits/dried fruits/chopped vegetables/cereal bars/popcorn as snacks.

 

  • Alcohol/smoking:

Start by yourself. Never smoke or drink alcohol in an excessive way in front of your teenage child. Pay attention to the type of friends they hang out with and to the type of places they visit. Alcohol consumption and smoking might make them feel more like adults, but they can harm their health in several ways. They can affect their metabolism, the absorption of nutrients by their bodies, their ability to stay focused in class and their growth.

 

  • Physical inactivity:

Teenagers should know the importance of being physically active in order to prevent obesity and several other health complications. They could become more sociable and find their “identity” in sports participation. The recommendations are at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, along with muscle and bone-strengthening exercises 3 times per week. They can start going to the gym before becoming 16 years old only if they are assisted by someone who’s professional in the field. They might start consuming several sports supplements but the majority of them showed no effectiveness in providing what they claim to bring.

 

 

Elie Saadé – Dietitian and owner of Elie Saadé Dietary Clinic (+961 70 94 35 36 - Jdeideh - New Jdeideh Street facing Municipality - La Santa Center - 6th floor)

Stéphanie Nassar – Dietitian at Elie Saadé Dietary Clinic

 

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