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Teen Nutrition, Health and Exercise

Teen Nutrition, Health and Exercise

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Dietitians and other health professionals have long recognized the importance of establishing healthful nutrition practices during teenage years. Diet and exercise patterns adopted during these prime developmental years set the stage for life-long habits that can mean the difference between vitality and infirmity in later years.

Your calorie needs vary depending on your growth rate, degree of physical maturation, body composition, and activity level. However, you do need extra nutrients to support the adolescent growth spurt, which, for girls, begins at ages 10 or 11, reaches its peak at age 12, and is completed by about age 15. In boys, it begins at 12 or 13 years of age, peaks at age 14, and ends by about age 19.

In addition to other nutrients, adequate amounts of iron and calcium are particularly important as your body undergoes this intensive growth period. From ages nine to 18 years, both males and females are encouraged to consume a calcium-rich diet (1,300 milligrams daily) in order to ensure adequate calcium deposits in the bones. This may help reduce the incidence of osteoporosis in later years. The recommended calcium intake can be achieved by getting at least three cups of fat-free or low-fat milk daily or the equivalent amount of low-fat yogurt and/or low-fat cheese. For those who don’t wish to consume dairy products, a variety of other calcium sources are available such as green, leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified soy products, and other calcium-fortified foods and beverages.

Meal Patterns

To meet energy needs, teenagers should eat at least three meals a day, beginning with breakfast. Studies show eating breakfast affects both cognitive and physical performance; that is, if you eat breakfast, you may be more alert in school and better able to learn and to perform sports or other physical activities.

Snacks also form an integral part of meal patterns for teenagers. You often cannot eat large quantities of food at one sitting and often feel hungry before the next regular mealtime.Healthy mid-morning and midafternoon snacks may be appropriate for you you.

Fast-growing, active teenagers may have tremendous energy needs. Although your regular meals can be substantial, you may need snacks to supply energy between meals and to meet your daily nutrient needs. If you are less active or who have already gone through the growth spurt, you may need to cut out the snacking.

Eating Disorders

Teenager’s food choices are often influenced by social pressure to achieve cultural ideals of thinness, gain peer acceptance, or assert independence from parental authority. These factors may increase your risk for developing eating disorders. An eating disorder is an emotional and physical problem that is associated with an obsession with food, body weight, or body shape. A teenager with an eating disorder diets, exercises, and/or eats excessively as a way of coping with the physical and emotional changes of adolescence. The three most common types of eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. Each type has its own symptoms and diagnosis.

According to the National Mental Health Information Center, as many as 10 million girls and women and one million boys and men are struggling with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (a disorder causing people to severely limit their food intake) or bulimia (a disorder in which people binge and purge by vomiting or using laxatives). Both anorexia and bulimia can lead to convulsions, kidney failure, irregular heartbeats, osteoporosis, and dental erosion. Those suffering from compulsive overeating or binge-eating disorder are at risk for heart attack, developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol, kidney disease and/or failure, arthritis, bone deterioration, and stroke.

Seeing a dietitian like Nastaran for medical nutrition therapy as well as seeing a medical specialist for psychotherapy are two integral components in the treatment of eating disorders. These are such complex illnesses that the expertise of multidisciplinary healthcare professionals is required.

Overweight and Obesity

Adults are not alone in the concern about weight management. In addition to the increase in the prevalence of adults who are obese or overweight, adolescent and childhood obesity and overweight are also on the rise.

Data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-2004), indicate that 14 percent of two to five year olds and 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 12-19 years in the United States are overweight. The prevalence of overweight children and adolescents has quadrupled and tripled, respectively, in the last 30 years. Only a small percentage of overweight children may attribute their problem to endocrine disorder or other underlying physical problems. Overweight and obesity can be determined by Body Mass Index (BMI).

If you are overweight, you need to reduce the rate of weight gain while still allowing for growth and development. Overweight children and adolescents are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. Therefore, health professionals emphasize healthful eating and the importance of physical activity as a life-long approach to weight management and to overall good health and quality of life. Before going on a diet, a healthcare provider and/or dietitian like Nastaran should always be consulted.

Physical Activity

Strong bones, good muscle tone, and lower risk of developing chronic diseases are some of the key benefits derived from regular physical activity. Furthermore, being physically active promotes psychological well-being and reduces feelings of depression and anxiety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Division of Adolescent and School Health, 77 percent of children aged nine to 13 years participate in free-time physical activity and only 39 percent engage in organized physical activity. Among high school students, 63 percent participate in vigorous physical activity and just 25 percent engage in sufficient moderate physical activity. Twelve percent engage in little or no physical activity at all.

Participation in physical activity tends to decline as you get older. The long-term consequences of physical inactivity include an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, and premature death. To maintain good health status you should engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week

Source: International Food Information Council

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Vegetarians face increased risk of eating disorders

While vegetarians tend to eat healthier diets and are less likely than non-vegetarians to be overweight or obese, they may be at increased risk for binge eating with loss of control, and former vegetarians may be at increased risk for extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors, according to researchers at University of Minnesota, University of Texas and St. John's University.

The researchers analyzed vegetarianism, weight, dietary intake and weight-control behaviors data from a population-based study in Minnesota of more than 2,500 males and females between 15 and 23. They found vegetarians ate healthier diets than non-vegetarians when it came to fruits, vegetables and fat intake. Among young adults, current vegetarians were less likely to be overweight or obese.

However, adolescent and young adult vegetarians were also more likely to report binge eating with loss of control compared to non-vegetarians. Among adolescents, former vegetarians were more likely to engage in extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors. And among young adults, former vegetarians were more likely to engage in extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors than people who either were currently vegetarians or had never followed a vegetarian eating plan.

Examples of extreme unhealthful weight-control behaviors included “took diet pills,” “made myself vomit,” “used laxatives” and “used diuretics.”

The researchers conclude: “Adolescent and young adult vegetarians may experience the health benefits associated with increased fruit and vegetable intake and young adults attain the added benefit of decreased risk for overweight and obesity. However, vegetarians may be at increased risk for disordered eating behaviors, such as binge eating and unhealthful weight-control behaviors.

“Study results indicate that it would be beneficial for clinicians to ask adolescents and young adults about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors. Furthermore, when guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning it may also be important to investigate an individual's motives for choosing a vegetarian diet.”

Source: Journal of the American Dietetic Association

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