About Me

Note from Maria: I am a Registered Dietitian with a Master of Public Health Degree in Nutrition from UNC at Chapel Hill. I have a passion for helping people with nutrition & wellness, especially moms. Women & moms provide care for everyone else often at the expense of considering their own needs. I hope to provide good resources to you to help you make nutrition and wellness a priority.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Nutrition for Teenage Girls

I had a request to talk about nutrition for teen girls. This is a tricky time....you want your girls to feel good about themselves, to take care of themselves and not obsess about having a "perfect body". You want them to learn everyone is different but that it is important to make good choices for their health. Emphasizing weight can cause low self esteem issues and can also lead to disordered eating patterns. It is important to note that boys can have disordered eating issues too. Here are some tips to help your teens make good food choices:

  • Focus on making healthy choices and discuss needing just the right about of nutrients. Too much or too little makes your body not work as it should. 
  • Discourage soda and encourage drinking water. Even juice has a lot of sugar and should be limited to one serving a day. 
  • Encourage 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
  • Don't allow more than 2 hours of screen time each day. Do not allow eating while watching TV because this leads to mindless eating.... just eating because it is sitting there rather than because you are hungry. 
  • Encourage 1/2 of their plate each meal to be filled with fruits and veggies. 
  • Teach children about serving sizes and encourage eating only one serving of processed foods at a time. Processed foods make it very easy to overeat because they often contain concentrated calories and they since they are ready to eat, you can eat a lot of calories very quickly. 
  • Take children to the farmers market and encourage them to try one new thing. 
  • Set the example. You cannot eat junk and expect your children to eat healthy. 
  • Do not stock junk food in the house. Have one family treat, such as ice cream and spend your food dollars on fruits, veggies and whole grain crackers instead. 
  • Teach your children to cook so they will know how to make healthy food for themselves once they leave home. I have met many adults who sincerely don't know how to cook. 
  • If you want a treat, have your children/teen bake it with you. For example, bake healthy banana oat muffins with whole wheat flour, 1/2 the sugar and substitute half the fat with applesauce. 
  • I tell my children they have to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. They get to pick what they want but they have to eat them. I also try to discourage lots of snacking. If they are really hungry at meal time they are more likely to eat what is on their plates. I try to place the fruit/veg on their plate first, so when they sit down and are hungry, they just start eating what is there. Then I add the entree. If I serve everything all at once, they tend not to eat the fruit and vegetables and then complain they are too full to eat them.
  • Do not encourage a "clean plate". If you don't want to waste food, give them small portions and let them ask for seconds. Encouraging children to continue eating when they are full is setting them up to overeat in adulthood. 
Here are some additional tips for healthy habits for families: 

If you suspect your child has an eating disorder call your pediatrician/family doctor and follow your "mommy instincts"! Eating disorders are no joke and can lead to permanent damage and ultimately death. Obsessing about calories and becoming very thin is a sign of anorexia nervosa, however, you can have an eating disorder and without these symptoms. Also look for including stains on teeth and callouses on hands (signs of forced vomiting).  If you suspect an eating disorder here is where you can find additional information. 

Hope this helps!! 

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