Kids eat right.

Healthy Eating for Healthy Teens

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN and Cordialis Msora-Kasago, MA, RD and Grace Derocha, MBA, RD, CDCES and Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LD and Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FAND and Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDE
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Maintaining a healthy eating pattern throughout adolescence doesn't require dieting or complicated meal plans. All it takes are some simple eating choices to make a big difference in how you feel, both physically and mentally. Here are tips parents can share with their teens to help them get the nutrients they crave and stay healthy at the same time.

Be Realistic: Make Small Changes over Time

  • Feeling bad that your body doesn't look like the models in the magazines? Dump unrealistic, unhealthy body ideals. Focus on nourishing your body with smart food choices from MyPlate.
  • Change what you drink. Switch from regular soft drinks to beverages with real power. Drink milk or fortified soy beverage for calcium and protein. For refreshment, you can't do better than plain water.

Be Adventurous: Expand Your Tastes

  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with naturally delicious, nutrient-rich fruit. Slice a banana into your morning cereal, munch a bunch of grapes at lunch or have fresh berries for dessert. For a snack, try some sliced watermelon or guava, pomegranate arils, crunchy jicama, or cherries.
  • Try vegetarian sources of protein including beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh. These plant-based foods pack a punch of nutrition including vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.
  • Going out? Order a different item at your usual stop or visit a totally new place. Chains often feature new items, such as fruit and yogurt parfaits, and many fast-food places now have healthier, plant-based options on the menu.

Be Sensible: Enjoy Nutrient Dense Foods

  • Breakfast is a meal that can help you make the grade at school and sports. It also can improve your attitude and kick your day into high gear. Start the day right with cereal and fruit, a yogurt smoothie or toast with nut butter. Try dosai (a thin pancake or crepe) plain or stuffed with curried potatoes and served with sambar and chutney, jianbing (savory crepes) or eggs and beans with tortillas.
  • Indulge your body's need for nutrients with power snacks that really count. Feed your next snack attack with half a sandwich. Try peanut butter and banana or turkey and cheese on whole-grain bread. Snack on fresh or dried fruit with nuts and cheese or sprinkle chile powder and lime over cucumber slices.
  • Pay attention to your fullness cues when you're out to eat and take home leftovers to snack on later.

Be Flexible: Balance Your Daily Choices

  • Planning a pizza party with friends? Savor a slice or two and fill up on salad to make sure you're getting your veggies in. While you're at it, experiment with nontraditional pizza toppings such as grilled vegetables or pineapple.
  • Small changes can make a big difference in in the long run. When you strive to eat a variety of nutritious foods every day, you're providing your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to grow and develop healthfully.