Talking nutrition to teenagers

Priya Arjun
Filed on February 5, 2017
Talking nutrition to teenagers

Teenagers look up to someone who can understand and support them rather than someone who controls them.

How to broach the subject of nutrition to teenagers? Teens get into the habit of staying up late, having late night dinners and indulging in unhealthy snacking. The reasons could be academic - examinations and assignments, social - peer company and peer pressure and even physiological-melatonin - the sleep hormone sets in late for this age group. This leads to skipping breakfast since they cannot eat with the stress induced by poor sleep and the morning rush for school. This may leave them exhausted and affect their ability to concentrate.

Heavy late night dinners can weaken the digestive system in the long run and lack of sleep can decrease the production of leptin, the feel full hormone and increase the levels of the hunger hormone-Grehlin. This can lead to unhealthy eating patterns and weight gain.

Going by false diet myths, a few skip and skimp on breakfasts, especially girls, to shed weight. Some of them go on a high protein diet for lean mass, discarding fats and carbohydrates. They fail to understand the body signals craving for balanced nutrition.

So what strategy can work with this group who has the attitude, "I know it all, but I just do not want to do it".

Teenagers look up to someone who can understand and support them rather than someone who controls them.

Stay connected to teens by providing solutions practical and relative to their needs. If they have to stay back late for studies, support them in making healthy food choices.

Convince them with scientific explanations. Instead of lecturing on the importance of greens to stay healthy, explain how they help in maintaining the PH balance by alkalinising the body.

A simple chemical equation like C6H12O6 + 6O2 = 6CO2 + 6H2O + ATP, will help them to understand better the benefits of breathing exercises in increasing metabolism.

Empower them with the skills for preparing quick and balanced meals.
According to Sadia Wajid, principal of GEMS Heritage Indian School, "teenagers are exposed to multitude of fast food choices and are subjected to the pressures of looking fit and attractive. They have to contend with the challenges of a competitive environment. Not to speak of the hormonal and body changes. This may lead them into developing emotional anxieties around food. So the objectives of nutrition education should be to get the teens to take charge of their health and help them in achieving realistic health goals."

Priya Arjun is a certified holistic wellness coach




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