Adolescence or teenage, a period for physical and mental growth, requires high attention to nutritional needs. A healthy diet during this time is important as the foods that teenagers eat have a great impact on their health when they reach adulthood. If during this period of growth, a teenager’s diet is high in sugar and fats, their metabolism tends to slow down and overweight and obesity sets in. This also increases the risk of teenagers developing heart disease later in life, high cholesterol and other health related issues.
In order to make sure the body is nourished with important nutrients and best foods from all food groups, teenagers have to surround themselves with fresh, wholesome and nutritious foods. This is where parents of teenagers play an important role. Parents must ensure that healthy eating starts first at home. Once family members adapt to healthier eating alternatives, teenagers themselves will adapt to the nature of eating right. What can be better than a “Kitchen Makeover” to make this work?
What’s a kitchen makeover and why is it important?
By talking of a kitchen makeover, we don’t mean swapping your polka dot curtains and patchwork kitchen floor, but swapping healthy foods over junk foods. In other words, keeping only the food or drink that your teenager should actually consume. If a food/drink isn’t conducive to your goals, why should you keep it? A kitchen makeover gets rid of non-nutritious foods that trigger you to engage in poor eating behaviour. Then it replaces the junk with a bounty of health-promoting foods.
The very first step would be gathering all the unhealthy foods from your fridge. This includes:
1. Junk foods: Mainly chips, chocolates and candy, sodas and other sweetened drinks, instant food mixes, frozen foods and other processed foods.
2. Trick foods: These are foods which trick us by seeming healthy but are extremely unhealthy. These include sweetened yogurt and frozen yogurt, bakery items, breakfast cereals, granola bars and fruit juices.
3. Miscellaneous foods: These include those foods which you didn’t even think about. These include salad dressings, bread croutons which we mainly add in our Indian soups, ketchup, processed meats such as sausages, salami, and other cold cuts, cheese spreads. We always feel a little of these foods would do no harm, without being aware of how a little of these daily would sum up to having adverse effects on our teenagers health in the long run.
Besides categorizing these foods, parents should also figure out what to keep and discard by thinking upon the following questions:
1. Does this food come in a bag, box, or plastic package?
2. Does it have more than a couple of ingredients on the label?
3. Can you pronounce all of those ingredients?
4. How far away is this food from what it used to be?
5. Is this food perishable?
A take-away tip for parents: If you are confused about whether a particular food is healthy or not, read the Nutritional Label. Look for forms of sugar such as high fructose corn syrup as well as hydrogenated oil, fractioned oil and preservatives.
Once your kitchen is free of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), trans-fats (hydrogenated oils), MSG, and items that are high in processed sugar, you have successfully transitioned to a healthy kitchen.