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H E A L T H:
Nutrition

You Need Energy.

It comes from the food you eat and your body uses it for everything you do. What you eat is hugely important. It affects:

  • How healthy you are now.
  • How healthy you will be in the years ahead.
  • How you look.
  • How you feel.

What Should You Eat?

A variety of healthy foods to give your body everything it needs. That includes foods from...

The Four Basic Food Groups (Ta-Da!)

1. Protein. Protein helps build muscles as well as hair and nails. It is essential for healthy blood. It also helps your body repair itself. (Like when you get a cut or break a bone.) Teens also need plenty of iron (which comes with some sources of protein). Girls need extra iron to replace the iron they lose each month during menstruation. Boys need more iron because the large increase in their tissue mass during the teen years is accompanied by the rise in their levels of iron-containing hemoglobin (red blood cells).

Some foods high in protein and iron include: all types of meat (poultry, beef, pork, lamb), fish and seafood, eggs, cheese, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, peanut butter, and tofu. Teens need 3 or more servings from this group every day.

2. Fruits and Vegetables. Veggies and fruits provide Vitamins A, B, and C for healthy eyesight, gums, skin, and blood vessels. These guys are also high in carbohydrates (an excellent source of energy). And because your body takes longer to break down starches (complex carbohydrates) they provide you with a longer-lasting source of energy than sugar without the "empty" calories. Fruits and veggies are also stuffed with vitamins and minerals and they taste great.

Some foods high in complex carbohydrates include: Potatoes, corn, squash, peas, beans, spinach, cabbage, most green vegetables, and all kinds of fruits. Teens need 4 or more servings from this group every day.

3. Grains. This group is another good source of complex carbohydrates. And because your body takes longer to break down starches (complex carbohydrates) they provide you with a longer-lasting source of energy than sugar without the "empty" calories.

Some grain foods include: Whole grain breads and cereals, rice, noodles, pasta. Teens need 6 or more servings from this group every day for vitamin B, iron, trace elements, and carbos for energy and fiber.

4. Dairy. Milk and milk products are high in calcium which teenagers need in large quantities for strong bones, teeth, and muscles. Teens needs lots of calcium because nearly half of the adult skeletal mass is formed during the teen years! Teenage girls and young women who drink milk with their meals have significantly denser bones when they reach middle age and are less likely to get osteoporosis (a disease common in older women in which the bones become brittle and are easily broken).

Milk and Milk Products are found in: All kinds of milk! (From whole to nonfat to buttermilk.) All kinds of cheeses, yogurts, and ice cream. Teens need 4 servings of "dairy" foods every day.

What About Calories?

A calorie is the amount of energy found in food. Males and females of different ages need different amounts of calories each day. Guys continue growing until they're about 19. So an active 15 year old guy may need as many as 4,000 calories a day!

Girls stop growing at around 15. So an active 15 year old girl needs 2,000-2,400 calories a day. These are about how many calories you need just to maintain your current weight. The extra ones that your body can't burn up are stored as body fat.

If you need to lose weight, do it wisely. Crash diets or fasting (not eating at all) can be very dangerous. You can make yourself really sick, develop an eating disorder, and end up gaining back every pound you lost and more.

There are only two ways a person can lose weight:

  • decreasing the number of calories they take in each day.

AND/OR

  • increasing the number of calories they burn through exercise.

Do not put yourself on a diet. If you think you need to lose weight, talk to your doctor. If he/she agrees that you are truly overweight then you can be referred to a nutritionist who will help you put together a healthy diet so you can achieve your ideal normal weight.

Don't Forget Your Vitamins!

You get the vitamins you need from eating a balanced diet and/or taking a multiple vitamin supplement.

  • Vitamin A is for growth. It also helps you maintain healthy skin, teeth, gums, eyes, digestive and urinary tracts. Helps repair body tissue.
  • Vitamin A is found in: milk,butter, margarine, eggs, liver, dark green and yellow veggies.
  • Vitamin B-1 helps convert carbohydrates into energy. It promotes healthy eyes, skin, and body tissues.
  • Vitamin B-2 is essential for smooth skin and clear vision.
  • Vitamin B-6 helps maintain healthy skin, red blood cells, and the nervous system.
  • Vitamin B-12 promotes a healthy nervous system and prevents types of anemia (low red blood cells) 
  • Vitamins B-1, B-2, B-6, and B-12 are found in: Meat, poultry, rice, whole grain bread and cereals, and many fruits and vegetables.
  • Vitamin C promotes healthy capillaries, gums, bones, and teeth.
  • Vitamin C is found in: Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons, limes), cantaloupes, berries, tomatoes, green peppers, and broccoli.
  • Vitamin D prevents softening of the bones.
  • Vitamin D is found in: milk and in fish liver oils.
  • Vitamin E is needed to keep up the involuntary nervous system (the automatic body functions like heart beat and respiration).
  • Vitamin E is found in: wheat germ oil.
  • Vitamin K is needed for normal blood clotting (so you won't bleed to death when you get a little scratch).
  • Vitamin K is found in: leafy vegetables, rice, bran, and sardines.
  • Vitamin P is needed for healthy blood circulation (it keeps the cell walls strong).
  • Vitamin P is found in: citrus fruits, rose hips, and paprika.

A Note On Fat. One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to reduce (not totally eliminate) the amount of fat in your diet.

Not only is fat high in calories but it also contributes to:

  • high blood cholesterol levels (Yes, teens can get that!)
  • heart disease
  • some cancers

Fat is not all bad.

It has the important job of carrying vitamins A, D, E, and K to our bloodstream.

Also...

Not all fats are created equal. Olive oil, canola and peanut oil are better for your heart than coconut oil or animal fat. Check for hidden fats in prepackaged food, fast foods such as fried hamburgers, French fries and snack foods such as potato and tortilla chips.

A Note On Sweets. We all know that cookies, ice cream, cakes, pie, doughnuts, candy, jelly, syrup, sodas, taste great. But all they give you is large amounts of "empty" calories (with none of the essential vitamins and minerals your body really needs). And sugar is everywhere! Start reading food labels and watch for hidden sugar in lots of foods you'd never think contained it like: ketchup, canned soups and vegetables, bottled salad dressing!

So what happens if you continually load up on the sweet stuff? It's just like your parents always said:

  • Sugar can rot your teeth (It's true!)

But more than that there may be a link between heavy sugar consumption and:

  • obesity
  • heart disease
  • hypoglycemia
  • diabetes

Too much sugar may also cause personality and behavioral problems. (Ever babysit for a kid who was all "sugared up"?)

But I Love Sweets!

So eat them once in a while, but not in place of "real" foods. Craving a sweet treat? Try homemade muffins, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, ginger snaps, fig or other fruit bars, even power bars, OR go for a frozen smoothie or non-fat yogurt.

A Note On Salt.

Salt is often a hidden ingredient in many fast foods and convenience foods like frozen dinners, canned and some frozen vegetables and, of course, in snack foods like potato chips and tortilla chips. Did you know that a McDonald's milkshake actually has more salt in it than a regular order of McDonald's fries?! How can you tell how much salt you're getting? Read the labels for "sodium" as well as other nutritional content. Eating too much salt can eventually lead to high blood pressure. For teen age girls, too much salt can make you feel bloated (full of water) right before your period.

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