Teens are often preoccupied with how they look due to increased social awareness and comparison to their peers. Growing interest in the opposite sex also helps to put concerns about appearance at the forefront. Kids are also influenced by media images: overexposure to actors and celebrities with a certain “look” may contribute to dissatisfaction with their appearance. As a result, many teens resort to extreme diets or other drastic means to achieve the body shape they think they want.
Teens need good nutrition to develop properly. Radical diets that deprive kids of essential foods and nutrients can be dangerous. Teens who alter their eating habits severely due to poor body image can also be at greater risk for developing eating disorders. Moderate dieting under the supervision of a physician is a better alternative.
For teens who choose to watch what they eat, here are some tips for healthy dieting. Help teens incorporate these strategies into their eating habits, and make sure that you model healthy eating habits, as well.
- Plan what you eat. Plan and shop for meals and snacks carefully. Make sure meals are well balanced and that you are eating from all of the food groups. Limit sweets and fats. Meals and snacks that are poorly planned and eaten on the run are more likely to be high in calories.
- Write down what you eat. Keeping track of food intake while watching your weight is a powerful tool. Often, people consume empty calories without even realizing it. Recording what you eat can help you recognize where you are getting off track.
- Don’t skip meals. All that will do is increase your chances of overeating at the next meal. Eating smaller amounts more frequently may fill you up more than eating a few bigger meals.
- Change your habits. Find out the places where you tend to mindlessly overeat. You may need to eliminate eating in the car or in front of the TV if these are trouble spots. Try to eat all of your meals at the kitchen table. This helps lower your overall food intake.
- Get some exercise. Physical activity will help the weight come off more quickly, and will help build a stronger body. Take up a sport, join a gym, or take a walk every night after dinner. It may be difficult to stick with at first, but eventually it will become a healthy habit that you look forward to.
- Water, water, water. Drink plenty of water. It fills you up and keeps you hydrated. Aim for eight to ten glasses a day. Try filling a pitcher with the amount you want to drink in a day, and set a goal to drink it all by the day’s end.
- Set a goal and rewards. Take small steps. Aim to lose no more than 1-2 pounds a week, and reward yourself for your achievements.
Losing weight slowly and sensibly with a moderate diet and exercise plan can help you learn and reinforce healthy eating habits.
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