5 reasons for teenage girls to nurture a healthy diet

The first term of the school year is over, you have settled into the new timetable and worked out that there will be even more homework than last year.

School meals have not changed, it’s still ‘chips on Friday’, fizzy drinks are not allowed and the time you spent learning about the Eatwell plate seems like a waste because a different Eatwell Guide has been launched. The food groups reflect the importance of fruit and vegetables in the diet, sugary soft drinks have been replaced with water and there is an increased emphasis on fibre.

The Food Technology class is familiar territory with its continued focus on healthy options, so ‘Meat Feast’ pizza won’t cut it anymore. It’s all about the swaps. White rice is out, wholegrain is in, Bolognese sauces have added chopped vegetables and ‘brown food’ has been pushed out by a rainbow of colour on the finished plate.

Why is this important? Here are the reasons:

  • Maintaining energy levels

Breakfast literally means “break the fast”.  If you eat at 7pm in the evening and then eat your next meal at 8am, your body will enter a fasting mode after 12 hours and starts using energy stored as glycogen. Having breakfast provides a welcome source of energy and helps keep the brain alert and maintains concentration throughout the school day.

 

  • Build up calcium levels

As a teenage girl you continue to grow until around age 16, but your body requires high amounts of calcium for your bones to grow in size and density until your early 20’s.  Dairy foods, calcium enriched milk alternatives, dark green leafy vegetables, fish eaten with bones, and weight-bearing exercises, all help to build strong, heathy bones.

 

  • Establish a healthy weight as you start periods

Teenage growth requires sufficient energy and nutrients to give you a healthy weight. No food is a bad food, it is the amount that you eat of it that counts. Your body will increase its lean body mass (muscle tissue) and will need more iron as the blood volume expands and you start your periods. Eating a plant based diet provides a source of fibre and nutrients and adding good quality proteins such as eggs, nuts, pulses and meat gives you much need protein.

 

  • Staying hydrated

Drinking water is not only the best way to quench your thirst, but it is a necessity to help keep you hydrated, especially when exercising or taking part in a physical activity.  Carry a water bottle at school so that you can top-up throughout the day.  Adding slices of cucumber, citrus or chopped fruit will give it a natural flavour.

 

  • Creating a healthy relationship with food

Keep on mind that there are three important relationships in life:

  1. Your relationship with money;
  2. Your relationship with food;
  3. Your relationship with yourself.

Having a good relationship in these three areas will help you worry less about what your friends think about how you look and what you eat and give you the tools to enjoy life.

 

Barbara Bray

Registered Nutritionist (AfN)


 

References

 

Llauradó, E., Albar, S.A., Giralt, M. et al. Eur J Nutr (2016) 55: 1789. doi:10.1007/s00394-015-0997-8

  • Iron requirements in adolescent females. Beard JL. J Nutr.2000 Feb;130(2S Suppl):440S-442S.
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