Diet and Nutrition- Blog Series New School Year

Kicking off a new school year gives us opportunity to improve kids’ nutritional habits by teaching them the importance of eating a healthy breakfast, and packing healthy snacks and lunches and making healthy choices while eating out with friends.  For teens, we can help them learn about the information that is on the nutrition facts panel of food products.

If decoding the information on a food package is a challenge for adults, think how hard it is for teens who are just beginning to make choices for themselves.  Give your teens some help as they become more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies.

Use the nutrition facts label to teach teens how to assess a product to see if it’s a healthy choice.

Fat Content:  Teach them how to make lower fat food choices that meet the American Heart Association guidelines.  Select foods that have no more than 3 grams of fat per 100 calories.

Fiber:  Teach them to choose foods with dietary fiber:  vegetables, whole grain breads, pastas and cereals.  High fiber foods help achieve fullness.

Protein:  Teach them to choose foods with adequate protein (5 grams or more per serving).   Eggs at breakfast, peanut butter on whole grain bread for lunch and lean meats, fish or poultry for dinner are just a few protein sources that help with longer satiety throughout the day.

Added sugar and salt.  Use the nutrition facts panel to teach teens about added sugars.  Have your teen review the label on a soda can to determine how many grams of sugar is in a serving.  There is one teaspoon of sugar for every four grams of sugar on the label, meaning,if a soda has 40 grams of sugar per serving, that breaks down to 10 teaspoons of sugar per serving!  Sounds crazy right?  The fact is, there is a lot of sugar in soda and other popular drinks that teens consume daily and that is why we say “don’t drink your calories”!

Portion Distortion:  For teenagers, sometimes a single portion doesn’t satisfy.  A teen may consume the entire bag of chips or 3 servings of soda or have a super-sized fast food meal.  Teens are growing and need both calories and nutrients.  Focusing on fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean meats, low-fat dairy and whole grains will help your teen fill up without overdoing it on calories, fat, sugar and salt.

Teens often make food choices away from home so it’s important that we instill principles of healthy eating.  Smartphone apps and online tools may motivate teens to be mindful of eating habits.

Teens will make mistakes along the way, but as we continue to encourage them to take ownership of their health, it will pay off.

Be Well,

Sherry Jenko, DTR and Wellness Coach