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Nutrition for teenagers

Healthy eating during your teenage years is important for a number of reasons – a balanced diet aids concentration and provides your body with the fuel it needs to get through a busy school day. Here’s how a few small changes can make a world of difference.

One small thing: Stay away from the tuckshop! Rather pack a lunchbox filled with healthy snacks to eat when you feel peckish, such as fresh fruit, dried fruit bars, yoghurt, drinking milk, unsalted nuts, lean biltong, popcorn or veggie sticks and hummus.

As a teenager, life can get busy – there’s schoolwork, sport and social activities. While all this is happening, your body is still growing and developing.

A healthy, balanced diet is key, but how do you follow a nutritious eating plan while juggling a busy schedule? And how do you keep a healthy mindset about eating? We’ve got some handy tips to get you started.

Create a healthy diet for life

During your teenage years, you’ll experience changes in your body, which may make you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.

Know that nutrition is important, not for how you look, but for how your body will function for the rest of your life. Establish healthy eating habits now by:

  • Understanding the fundamentals of a healthy diet – you should eat protein, healthy fats and carbs, fruit and vegetables, and stay hydrated with water.
  • Focusing on your health first – view food as the fuel you need for strength and health and never deprive yourself.
  • Getting involved with helping to prepare food and shopping for groceries.
  • Being physically active – choose an activity you enjoy, such as hiking or swimming.
Eat healthily throughout the day

When you’re busy with homework and extramural activities, the last thing on your mind is what to pack in your lunchbox.

But it’s important to eat small meals throughout the day to keep your energy levels up. A good rule is to include at least three food groups in one meal. Here are some easy ideas for your lunchbox:

  • Tuna pasta, or a bulgur wheat or couscous salad are great as they combine healthy carbs, fats and vegetables.
  • Make time for a balanced breakfast, no matter how rushed you are.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand – unsalted nuts, lean biltong, popcorn and veggies with hummus are great options to pack.
  • Make a tuna, chicken, salmon or egg-salad sandwich using wholegrain bread or seed loaf, or try a wholewheat pita bread or wrap.
  • Take healthy snacks such as fruit and nuts to sports practice, rather than sugary energy drinks.
Create a healthy mindset

Learn to see food as a fuel rather than a reward or punishment. Here are some tips to be more mindful about food:

  • Learn to listen to your body in order to distinguish between real hunger, boredom and stress, i.e. what’s really making you reach for those snacks?
  • Focus on the food in front of you instead of scrolling through your phone or watching TV while eating.
  • Meals are important times when families gather together; they are when new memories are created.
  • Take special care of yourself during hectic times like exams. Make sure you get enough sleep, take the time to walk outside or read your favourite book and keep plenty of healthy snacks at hand.

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