With back to school in full swing, routines and rituals are slowly renewing after the slow summer months. As the mom of a pre-teen, her health is something I think about all the time. As we move closer to her teen years, I encourage and support her performing her own skincare rituals and routines. Skin and body health are closely tied to nutrition, so of course I reached out to our resident nutrition expert Valerie Spohr! Read on for valuable insight, and a delicious recipe to support development.
Nourishing Futures: Empowering Teens with Healthy Eating Habits
by Valerie Spohr, CNP, nutrinimble
Navigating the teenage years is like riding a rollercoaster. Between the swirl of academic pressures, extracurricular activities, and social engagements, it's easy for teenagers to unintentionally overlook the significance of proper nutrition. However, these formative years are such an important time for growth and development, both physically and mentally. Research is revealing an alarming trend – many adolescents aren't meeting the daily nutritional recommendations, leaving potential gaps in their overall well-being. In this blog post, we'll embark on a journey through the nutritional needs of teens, focusing on cultivating healthy eating habits that can pave the way for a vibrant and successful future.
Fueling Growth with Essential Nutrients
Teenagers are on a rapid journey towards adulthood, and the fuel they put into their bodies can make all the difference. Essential nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin B6, iron, and vitamin B12 are like building blocks for their bodies. These nutrients contribute to everything from strong bones to a sharp mind and a resilient immune system. However, according to a study published from the University of Cambridge revealing that a notable number of teenagers fall short on these vital nutrients, notably vitamin D, calcium, and iron. These nutrients, so crucial for robust bones and overall vitality, take center stage during this critical phase of development.
Building Strong Foundations: The Power of Breakfast
We've all heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For teenagers, this holds even more truth. Starting the day with a nutritious breakfast provides the energy and nutrients needed to kick start their day and fuel their busy schedules. But it's not just about any breakfast—it's about making smart choices.
Crafting a balanced breakfast involves combining proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, and fruits or vegetables. This dynamic combination aids in stabilizing blood sugar levels, providing sustained energy and focus throughout the morning.
A systematic review study unearthed a fascinating connection between a balanced breakfast and improved cognitive performance in teenagers. Those who consistently enjoyed a nutrient-rich breakfast demonstrated enhanced memory and attention span, illustrating the profound impact of breakfast choices on academic success.
Cultivating Healthy Habits
Encouraging teenagers to adopt healthy eating habits goes beyond simply listing the right foods. It is about fostering a positive relationship with food, encouraging mindful eating and supporting a lifelong commitment to wellness.
It is so important to educate and empower young people about the importance of different nutrients and their role in overall well-being. Motivating them to actively participate in meal planning and preparation fosters a sense of autonomy and responsibility that forms the basis for making conscious nutritional choices.
Another important aspect is to encourage them to make smarter snack choices. While sugary snacks look very appealing, promoting smarter alternatives such as nuts, yogurt, fruits and vegetables can bring significant benefits. These alternatives, unlike their sugary counterparts, provide important nutrients without compromising energy levels. Opting for nutrient-dense snacks helps teenagers keep their energy levels steady and boost their overall well-being.
In addition, it is important to remind teens of the importance of drinking enough fluids. Water plays an important role in digestion, circulation and overall well-being. Encourage them to choose water or unsweetened herbal tea over sugary drinks as this will not only benefit their physical health, but also their concentration and mental clarity.
By teaching these practices, we empower teenagers to take charge of their nutritional decisions. This paves the way for a future that is shaped by
As parents, guardians, educators, and mentors, we have a unique opportunity to guide teenagers toward a path of lifelong wellness. By emphasizing the importance of meeting nutritional needs through a balanced diet, particularly focusing on those often-neglected nutrients, and starting the day with a nourishing breakfast, we can set the stage for healthier lives and brighter futures. Remember, the journey to good grades and a thriving life begins with a nutrient-packed breakfast and continues with empowered choices throughout the day.
Recipe: Chocolate Chia Pudding
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup unsweetened organic plant-based milk 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder A pinch of salt
1 scoop of your favorite chocolate protein powder (about 20-25g of protein) 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup mixed frozen berries
1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the chia seeds, unsweetened cocoa powder, chocolate protein powder, and a pinch of salt.
2. Pour in the unsweetened organic plant-based milk to the bowl. Stir well to combine all the ingredients thoroughly. Make sure there are no clumps of cocoa powder.
3. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it for at least 2-3 hours or overnight. During this time, the chia seeds will absorb the liquid and create a pudding-like consistency.
4. For the first hour, stir the mixture occasionally to ensure the chia seeds are evenly distributed and don't clump together.
5. In a small saucepan, heat the frozen mixed berries over low to medium heat. Cook the berries for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they thaw, release their juices, and create a compote-like consistency.
6. Once the chia pudding has thickened to your desired consistency, spoon it into serving bowls or glasses.
7. Top the chocolate chia pudding with the mixed berries. Feel free to be creative with your berry arrangement.
Research Paper Sources:
Moore Heslin, A., & McNulty, B. (2023). Adolescent nutrition and health: Characteristics, risk factors and opportunities of an overlooked life stage. Cambridge University Press. Published online on 16 March 2023.
Adolphus, K., Lawton, C. L., Champ, C. L., & Dye, L. (2016). The Effects of Breakfast and Breakfast Composition on Cognition in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review. Advances in Nutrition, 7(3), 590S–612S. doi:10.3945/an.115.010256