Teenagers are under excessive amounts of pressure building up quite literally in all aspects of their life: academically, socially–from family, and perhaps the most crucial, personal pressure. This will often result in looking for a way to release some of the stress, often in the form of dieting.
Nutrition experts cannot emphasize enough how damaging dieting is when you are still in your teens, and you really shouldn’t. You need sufficient energy for school and sports activities and eating the right way is vital for this.
So, what do we mean by eating the right way?
- Eat healthy. Yes, clearly this is implied, and perhaps so obvious it doesn’t have to be mentioned, but it is the basis of everything. Eating healthy doesn’t necessarily mean eating ‘raw’ or drinking green juice for breakfast, lunch and dinner… yuck. Generally, eating healthy means that a couple of times a week you should exchange pasta for brown rice, or even wheat, barley and whole-meal couscous, all of which are high in fibre, but not as extremely healthy (and therefore difficult to enjoy) as lentils and quinoa. These can be incorporated into any dish, as you would with white rice or pasta, all you have to do is ask your mum to substitute pasta for brown rice once or twice a week.
- Eat 3 meals a day, especially breakfast. Your body is going to be needing food at some point during the day, so ideally, do this at home and get enough energy for school, rather than snacking on something from the vending machine during recess. If you eat breakfast, you prevent the drop in blood sugar that will make you crave a Snickers bar at 11 am. Examples of a well-rounded breakfast include muesli and yogurt or milk, eggs and a sandwich or a hearty bowl of porridge!
- Exercise, pick something that you like. If you are having a hard time motivating yourself to go running, subscribe to a gym and join the classes; they are usually fun and they guarantee a 60-minute workout. Alternatively, design a workout plan with a friend. Staying fit together will make it more fun for both of you and setting a common goal will motivate even more. If you’re simply lacking the encouragement, the Nike wristband is a new, cool gadget that gives you points for every form of exercise, even if it’s just walking home to school. The fundamental message is that to feel better internally, exercising at least once a week is crucial.
- Sugar. Although many diets advise you to avoid it, don’t. Firstly, remember you’re not dieting, you’re a teen. Secondly, sugar at large amounts may be considered bad, but you do need it. After a long day of school, avoiding sugar, at some point will inevitably lead to an outburst of uncontrollable snacking. Instead, have smaller amounts of products containing sugar. For instance, have one or two chocolate digestives instead of a whole Mars bar or Haribo bag, this way you fulfill your sweet tooth, but in reasonable amounts.
- Avoid comparisons. Everyone has different patterns, and it is really important not to compare your eating patterns to that of your friend. If she doesn’t eat anything during recess, this probably means she’s had a big breakfast and isn’t that hungry yet. You should never try and adjust your pattern to that of your friend, you two are completely different.