Eating and Snacking Patterns

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Adolescents tend to eat differently than they did as children. With after-school activities and active social lives, teens are not always able to sit down for three meals a day. Busy schedules may lead to meal skipping, snacking throughout the day, and more eating away from home. Many teens skip breakfast, for example, but this meal is particularly important for getting enough energy to make it through the day, and it may even lead to better academic performance. When teens skip meals, they are more likely to grab fast food from a restaurant, vending machine, or convenience store. These foods are high in fat and sugar and tend to provide little nutritional value. In addition, eating too many fast foods can lead to weight gain and, in some cases, diabetes and heart disease.

calorie: unit of food energy protein: complex molecule composed of amino acids that performs vital functions in the cell; necessary part of the diet calcium: mineral essential for bones and teeth iron: nutrient needed for red blood cell formation energy: technically, the ability to perform work; the content of a substance that allows it to be useful as a fuel tofu: soybean curd, similar in consistency to cottage cheese osteoporosis: weakening of the bone structure oxygen: O2, atmospheric gas required by all animals anemia: low level of red blood cells in the blood fatigue: tiredness legumes: beans, peas, and related plants diabetes: inability to regulate level of sugar in the blood heart disease: any disorder of the heart or its blood supply, including heart attack, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease

Dietary decisions made in adolescence may have lasting health effects. For example, in the United States, more than 85 percent of teen girls and about 65 percent of teen boys do not include enough calcium in their diets. Such deficiency increases their chances of developing osteoporosis as adults. [AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.]

obesity: the condition of being overweight, according to established norms based on sex, age, and height chronic: over a long period

Eating meals and snacking away from home puts the responsibility for good food choices right in adolescents' hands. Snacks should be low in both fat and added sugar. Some healthful snack ideas include fresh fruit, sliced vegetables with low-fat dip, low-fat yogurt, low-fat string cheese, peanut butter and crackers, baked chips, granola bars, and graham crackers. Juices, fruit drinks, and sodas are usually very high in calories from natural or added sugar, so they should be consumed in moderation. The Food Guide Pyramid is an appropriate guide for adolescents' food choices, even when snacking.

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