As you get older, youre able to start making your own decisions about a lot of things that matter most to you. You may choose your own clothes, music, and friends. You also may be ready to make decisions about your body and health. Making healthy decisions about what you eat and drink, how active you are, and how much sleep you get is a great place to start.
How does the body use energy?
Your body needs energy to function and grow. Calories from food and drinks give you that energy. Think of food as energy to charge up your battery for the day. Throughout the day, you use energy from the battery to think and move, so you need to eat and drink to stay powered up. Balancing the energy you take in through food and beverages with the energy you use for growth, activity, and daily living is called “energy balance.” Energy balance may help you stay a healthy weight.
How many calories does your body need?
Different people need different amounts of calories to be active or stay a healthy weight. The number of calories you need depends on whether you are male or female, your genes, how old you are, your height and weight, whether you are still growing, and how active you are, which may not be the same every day.
How should you manage or control your weight?
Some teens try to lose weight by eating very little; cutting out whole groups of foods like foods withcarbohydrates, or “carbs;”skipping meals; or fasting. These approaches to losing weight could be unhealthy because they may leave out important nutrients your body needs. In fact, unhealthy dieting could get in the way of trying to manage your weight because it may lead to a cycle of eating very little and then overeating because you get too hungry. Unhealthy dieting could also affect your mood and how you grow.
Smoking, making yourself vomit, or using diet pills orlaxativesto lose weight may also lead to health problems. If you make yourself vomit, or use diet pills or laxatives to control your weight, you could have signs of a serious eating disorder and should talk with your health care professional or another trusted adult right away. If you smoke, which increases your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other health problems,quit smokingas soon as possible. If you think youneed to lose weight, talk with a health care professional first. A doctor ordietitianmay be able to tell you if you need to lose weight and how to do so in a healthy way.
Choose Healthy Foods and Drinks
Healthy eating involves taking control of how much and what types of food you eat, as well as the beverages you drink. Try to replace foods high in sugar, salt, and unhealthyfatswith fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat protein foods, and fat-free or low-fat dairy foods.
Fruits and Vegetables – Make half of your platefruits andvegetables. Dark green, red, and orange vegetables have high levels of the nutrients you need, like vitamin C, calcium, and fibre. Adding tomato and spinachor any other available greens that you liketo your sandwich is an easy way to get more veggies in your meal.
Grains – Choosewhole grainslike whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and whole-grain cereal, instead ofrefined-graincereals, white bread, and white rice.
Protein – Power up with low fat or lean meats like turkey or chicken, and otherprotein-rich foods, such as seafood, egg whites, beans, nuts, and tofu.
Dairy – Buildstrong boneswith fat-free or low-fat milk products. If you cant digest lactosethe sugar in milk that can cause stomach pain or gaschoose lactose-free milk or soy milk with added calcium. Fat-free or low-fat yogurt is also a good source of dairy food.
Healthy Eating Tips
- Try to limit foods like cookies, candy, frozen desserts, chips, and fries, which often have a lot of sugar, unhealthy fat, and salt.
- For a quick snack, try recharging with a pear, apple, or banana; a small bag of baby carrots; or hummus with sliced veggies.
- Dont add sugar to your food and drinks.
- Drink fat-free or low-fat milk and avoid sugary drinks. Soda, energy drinks, sweet tea, and some juices have added sugars, a source of extra calories. The2015-2020 Dietary Guidelinescall for getting less than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugars.
Fatis an important part of your diet. Fat helps your body grow and develop, and may even keep your skin and hair healthy. But fats have more calories per gram than protein or carbs, and some are not healthy. Some fats, such as oils that come from plants and are liquid at room temperature, are better for you than other fats. Foods that contain healthy oils include avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, and seafood such as salmon and tuna fish.
Solid fats such as butter, stick margarine, and lard, are solid at room temperature. These fats often containsaturatedandtrans fats, which are not healthy for you. Other foods with saturated fats include fatty meats, and cheese and other dairy products made from whole milk. Take it easy on foods like fried chicken, cheeseburgers, and fries, which often have a lot of saturated and trans fats. Options to consider include a turkey sandwich with mustard or a lean-meat, turkey, or veggie burger.
Your body needs a small amount ofsodium, which is mostly found in salt. But getting too much sodium from your foods and drinks can raise yourblood pressure, which is unhealthy for your heart and your body in general. Even though youre a teen, its important to pay attention to your blood pressure and heart health now to prevent health problems as you get older. Try to consume less than 2,300 mg, or no more than 1 teaspoon, of sodium a day. This amount includes the salt in already prepared food, as well as the salt you add when cooking or eating your food. Processed foods, like those that are canned or packaged, often have more sodium than unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. When you can, choose fresh or frozen fruits and veggies over processed foods. Try adding herbs and spices instead of salt to season your food if you make your own meals. Remember to rinse canned vegetables with water to remove extra salt. If you use packaged foods, check the amount of sodium listed on the Nutrition Facts label.
Limit added sugars – Some foods, like fruit, are naturally sweet. Other foods, like ice cream and baked desserts, as well as some beverages, have added sugars to make them taste sweet. These sugars add calories but not vitamins or fibre. Try to consume less than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugars in food and beverages. Reach for an apple or banana instead of a candy bar.
Control your food portions – Aportionis how much food or beverage you choose to consume at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package, at school or a friends, or at home. Many people consume larger portions than they need, especially when away from home. Ready-to-eat mealsfrom a restaurant, grocery store, or at schoolmay give you larger portions than your body needs to stay charged up.
Dont skip meals – Skipping meals might seem like an easy way to lose weight, but it actually may lead to weight gain if you eat more later to make up for it. Even if youre really busy with school and activities, its important to try not to skip meals.
Follow these tips to keep your body charged up all day and to stay healthy:
- Eat breakfast every day.Breakfast helps your body get going. If youre short on time in the morning, grab something to go, like an apple or banana.
- Pack your lunch on school days.Packing your lunch may help you control your food and beverage portions and increases the chances that you will eat it because you made it.
- Eat dinner with your family.When you eat home-cooked meals with your family, you are more likely to consume healthy foods. Having meals together also gives you a chance to reconnect with each other and share news about your day.
- Get involved in grocery shopping and meal planning at home.Going food shopping and planning and preparing meals with family members or friends can be fun. Not only can you choose a favorite grocery store, and healthy foods and recipes, you also have a chance to help others in your family eat healthy too.
Physical activity should be part of your daily life, whether you play sports, take physical education (PE) classes in school, do chores, or get around by biking or walking. Regular physical activity can help you manage your weight, have stronger muscles and bones, and be more flexible.
Aerobic versus Lifestyle Activities – You should be physically active for at least60 minutes a day. Most of the 60 minutes or more of activity a day should be either moderate or intenseaerobic physical activity, and you should include intense physical activity at least 3 days a week. Examples of aerobic physical activity, or activity that makes you breathe harder and speeds up your heart rate, include jogging, biking, and dancing.
For a more moderate workout, try brisk walking, jogging, or biking on flat streets or paths. To pick up the intensity, turn your walk into a jog, or your jog into a runor add hills to your walk, jog, or bike ride. You don’t have to do your 60 minutes a day all at once to benefit from your activity. Routine activities, such as cleaning your room or taking out the trash, may not get your heart rate up the way biking or jogging does. But they are also good ways to keep active on a regular basis. Fitness apps that you can download onto your computer, smartphone, or other mobile device can help you keep track of how active you are each day.
Have fun with your friends – Being active can be more fun with other people, like friends or family members. You may also find that you make friends when you get active by joining a sports team or dance club. Mix things up by choosing a different activity each day. Try kickball, flashlight tag, or other activities that get you moving, like walking around the mall. Involve your friends and challenge them to be healthy with you. Sign up for active events together, like charity walks, fun runs, or scavenger hunts.
What if I don’t have money for sports equipment or activities?
You don’t need money or equipment to stay active. You can run or use free community facilities, like school tracks and basketball courts, to be active at least 60 minutes each day. If you want to play a sport or game that you need equipment for, check with your neighbours or friends at school to see if you can borrow or share supplies. Your school guidance counsellor or a PE teacher or coach could tell you how much it costs to join a sports team you are interested in. They may know if your school waives or reduces fees, or if you could apply for a scholarship for certain activities.
Take it outside
Maybe you or some of your friends spend a lot of time indoors watching TV, surfing the web, using social media, or playing video games. Try getting in some outdoor activity to burn calories instead. Here are other activities to try:
- Have a jump rope or hula hoop contest.
- Play Frisbee.
- Build an obstacle course or have a scavenger hunt.
- Play volleyball or flag football.
If youre stuck indoors or dont have a lot of time, try climbing up and down the stairs in your apartment or home. You can also find dance and other fitness and exercise videos online or on some TV channels. Some routines are only 15 or 20 minutes so you can squeeze them in between homework, going out, or other activities. You also can choose active sports games if you have a gaming system.
Tips for cutting back your screen time
Try to limit your screen time to less than 2 hours each day, not counting your homework:
- Replace after-school TV and video-game time with physical activities at home, at school, or in your community.
- Turn off your cellphone or other device before you go to bed. Put them away from your nightstand or bed.
Get Enough Sleep
Sometimes its hard to get enough sleep, especially if you have a job, help take care of younger brothers or sisters, or are busy with other activities after school. Like healthy eating and getting enough physical activity, getting enough sleep is important for staying healthy. You need enough sleep to do well in school, work and drive safely, and fight off infection. Not getting enough sleep may make you moody and irritable. While more research is needed, some studies have shown that not getting enough sleep may also contribute to weight gain. If youre between 13 and 18 years old, you should get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.
Take Your Time
Changing your habits can be hard. And developing new habits takes time. You can do it!
- Make changes slowly.Dont expect to change your eating, drinking, or activity habits overnight. Changing too much too fast may hurt your chances of success.
- Figure out what’s holding you back.Are there unhealthy snack foods at home that are too tempting? Are the foods and drinks youre choosing at your school cafeteria too high in fat and sugar? How can you change these habits?
- Set a few realistic goals.If youre a soda drinker, try replacing a couple of sodas with water. Once you are drinking less soda for a while, try cutting out all soda. Then set another goal, like getting more physical activity each day. Once you have reached one goal, add another.
- Get a buddy at school or someone at home to support your new habits.Ask a friend, brother or sister, parent, or guardian to help you make changes and stick with your new habits.