Is your teen complaining, upset, or frustrated about the extra weight they’re carrying around? Is your teen skipping meals or choosing junk food as a primary food group? As a parent, you’re concerned for your teen’s well-being and health. You want to help your teen, but how?
Understand the normal physical growth and development of teensAdolescence occurs between 11 and 21 years of age. During this period, teens gain 50 percent of ideal adult body weight. In fact, girls gain approximately 18 pounds of weight, while boys gain 20 pounds during adolescence. Body composition also changes. Males lose approximately 12 percent of body fat, while girls gain on average 11 percent body fat and lose an average of six percent lean body mass. The physical and hormonal changes occurring among teens result in larger appetites and increased cravings.
Focus on eating healthy rather than numbers on a scale or food labelGaining body fat is normal for teens, but unfortunately, due to weight dissatisfaction, peer influences, and media images, teens view body fat as negative, which makes most teens vulnerable to comments on their appearance and size. As a result, teens engage in health-compromising behaviors, such as weight or calorie obsession and excessive dieting. So, instead of monitoring weight and calories closely, turn your teen’s attention to making healthier food choices and engaging physical activity every day.
Encourage your teen to eat meals regularlyTeens often lead busy lives and end up skipping meals. Skipping breakfast or lunch can dramatically decrease intake of energy, protein, fiber, and calcium and folate, nutrients that are necessary for the health and growth of your teen. Prepare quick and healthy meals the night before or have a ready-made Almased shake for your teen to grab on-the-go. Having a nutritious meal replacement shake is better than foregoing any meal.
Make healthy snacks available to your teenAlong with skipping meals, snacking is also common among teens. In fact, snacks account for 25 to 33 percent of daily energy intakes. Snacking can be healthy if given the right options; however, most teens opt for sugary drinks as well as processed and convenient foods that tend to be high in sugar, sodium, and fat and packed with unnatural ingredients and empty calories that are not beneficial. Here’s a tip: In the kitchen and pantry, place healthy nutrient-dense snacks within reach or in sight. Examples of snacks include boiled eggs or peanut butter with an apple or half a serving of an Almased shake. These snack options are far healthier choices than going for a bag of chips or cookies.
Help your teen lose weight healthfullyNowadays, excess weight is not only common among adults, but also in teens. If your teen’s weight is a concern, consult with your teen’s doctor or a dietitian about what your teen’s weight loss goals should be and strategies to achieve them. One strategy parents have inquired about is whether teens can use Almased. For decades, Almased has been recommended to adults for weight loss, yet in actuality, it can also be used by teens to reduce weight healthfully. Teens can use half a serving of Almased as a healthy snack option or a full serving of Almased to replace a routinely skipped meal.
Prioritize your health to set a good exampleMore importantly, prioritizing your health can make a big impact on your teen’s health. Teens regard their parents as role models to their health. Research shows that teens of overweight and sedentary parents have an 80 percent higher chance of being overweight and sedentary themselves. So make sure to partake in healthier eating habits and lifestyle to help set the stage for your teen’s overall health.
Written by: Jamie Luu, RDN, LDN and Daniel Solomon, RDN, LDN
Source: Brown, Judith E., Nutrition Through the Life Cycle. 3rd Edition. P 354-369.