by Aprel Phelps-Downey
Discussing your teenager’s nutritional options with them is likely to evoke a little eye rolling. Although challenging, giving advice about what your teen should eat is one of those parenting times when you need to stand your ground. Taking a firm position on nutrition only works to benefit your teen as they continue through life (with or without anxiety).
Teen Nutrition 101
Understanding your teen’s nutritional needs starts with the realization that their appetite increases with each passing year. Your teenager needs anywhere from 2,200 to 2,800 calories just to make it through the day, meaning you can expect grocery store bill to get bigger as their quest to get enough to eat never ends. Nutrients also being to play a vital role in a teen’s daily nutritional needs.
Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are the top three nutrients that your teenager needs for energy. Eggs are a great source of protein that gives the essential amino acids they need for growth and development. Foods rich in protein release serotonin to regulate your teenager’s mood and improve their sleep patterns and behavior, which help you both manage their anxiety levels.
Carbohydrates serve as your teenager’s main energy source. Give them a mixture of brazil nuts as a snack to help regulate their levels of selenium, which works to naturally boost their mood and reduce inflammation. Combine this snack with a pasta dish for dinner or add it to their lunch in the morning to promote healthy carbohydrate intake.
Dietary fats are essential to a teenager’s nutrition, but you need to keep their consumption of these foods to 30% of their caloric intake each day. When selecting these food items, make note of the fat, sugar and salt percentages. Giving your teenager foods high in saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol and high blood pressure as an adult. Serving salmon is a great way to give your teenager a healthy dose of dietary fat while also working to improve their mental health. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, two nutrients are known to reduce anxiety levels naturally.
Adding vitamins and minerals is another essential part of a teenager’s nutritional needs. Pumpkin seeds are a great way to give them a healthy amount of zinc, which can reduce feelings of stress or anxiety. They’ll welcome dark chocolate with open arms without realizing how the presence of magnesium in the treat works to boost their mood. Having an idea of what your teenager needs most in their diet can help make trips to the grocery store easier.
Make sure to avoid processed foods as much as possible, while controlling your teen’s sugar intake as well. Candy, soda, chips, and all the other junk foods teenagers tend to love can trigger anxiety symptoms. Check out these clever alternatives to sugary sweets to satisfy their sweet tooths.
Grocery Shopping for Teenagers
Focusing on the outer perimeter of a supermarket makes food shopping for your teenager a success. Avoid going down the aisles when possible, as most of those food items stocked there tend to be high in saturated fats, sugars, and salts. Start in the fresh produce section of the store and select dark green, red and orange vegetables. These food items are packed full of vitamin C, calcium and fiber, which create a healthy nutritional base for your teenager’s diet.
Keeping your teenager’s carbohydrates and protein needs in mind help you make smart choices when selecting grains, protein, and dairy items. Avoid refined grain products like white bread and focus instead on whole grain products like whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice. Look for protein-rich foods to boost their mood and energize their body. These types of foods include seafood, eggs, turkey and chicken. Serving fat-free or low-fat dairy products boost calcium levels and enable strong bone growth.
You may be tempted to pick up a few processed food items as convenience options on busy nights. These items do more harm than good, though. Processed foods are typically high in sodium, which can send their blood pressure or cholesterol levels soaring to unhealthy levels. By limiting their sodium intake, you can work to manage their anxiety levels as well.
Proper Nutrition Starts at Home
Building a foundation for healthy eating starts in your kitchen. Your teenager can learn from watching what you eat. Make nutrition fun by letting them make a meal from start to finish, including the grocery shopping. Keep healthy snacks on hand and insist that everyone in the home eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day, no exceptions. Instilling these habits while at home helps gives teenagers the tools to make healthy choices when eating out with friends.
Proper nutrition has the power to improve your teenager’s mental alertness and paves the way for them making healthy choices at mealtime.
Aprel Phelps-Downey is a brand storyteller, author, and writer, specializing in small business marketing services. She holds a B.S. in marketing from the University of South Florida.