It is crucial that adolescents receive the required nutrients while growing and developing. However it is also just as important to take action if a teenager is above a normal healthy weight. It is sometimes difficult to find a balance when there is so much in the media about diets and body image; when all teenage girls see are size 0 models. Below are some tips for parents and teenagers on what is an appropriate diet for a teenager.

The basics – the number of calories a person burn needs to be greater than those they consume. This does not mean eating less, but rather eating nutritious food within a balanced diet. Breakfast is important as it helps kick start the metabolism and sustains a teenager through the morning until lunch so the tempration to snack mid morning is reduced. Making  junk food an occasional indulgence and not eating late at night will also aid the digestive system.

How many calories – Teenage girls require around 2,000 calories per day, whilst boys need 2,500 per day. It is important for the body to receive the necessary calories each day in order to function properly and support growth and development. Depriving the body of calories and therefore energy can lead to poor concentration at school.

What to choose – make lower-calorie, higher nutritional choices, this is better than to take the shortcut by only reducing  food portions. Simple things like replacing soft drinks with water will make a huge difference. Have large amounts of fruit and veggies, as they are both filling and rich in nutrients.

Exercise – Social networking, computer games, assignments and watching television all mean many hours are spent sitting in one place in front of a screen. This static time needs to be balanced with some time spent in physical activities and exercise. Teenagers should  aim for 30 minutes of exercise, 4 times a week. School sports swimming and walking are easily available and fun to do.

No fad or extreme diets – Such choices affect teenagers’ growth and create health issues in the long run. Cutting out major food groups such as carbohydrates and good fats has an adverse effect on their development both physically and emotionally.

Diets to avoid as a teenager – because their bodies still need vital nutrients to fully develop, grow and strengthen, certain diets are not recommended for teenagers as they cut out too many of the major food groups vital to healthy growth. Make sure their diets are balanced and include all the major food groups.

For more information go to the government’s website “Measure Up

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha