Teen Nutrition:
Not on the Front Burner

Teen Nutrition

If one of today's pop stars would rap about teen nutrition, it would be much easier to get young people's attention. The rap star could talk about unhealthy eating habits and junk food snacking.

The refrain could go on about eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep and increasing the amount of exercise on a daily basis. This rap song would have a danceable beat, leading to a healthier heart and normal weight.

An Evolving Problem

The number of teenagers who are overweight or obese is on the rise, and has been for a number of years. Once upon a time teenagers spent quality time in physical education classes at school and joined some kind of sports team for an after school activity. Meals were then eaten with the family.

Even if they did not become a team member, local neighborhood teens would get together to play one-on-one basketball or an impromptu softball game. Just think about the last time you saw a group of teenagers voluntarily riding bicycles or even going for a jog. Many teens today can be found sitting in front of computers instead of outside getting exercise.

Teenagers have become victims of society's preference for everything to be fast. There are fast food meals, fast games, drive-through restaurants, snack machines and microwave meals.

All a teen has to do is put a dollar in the snack machine to get a bag of chips that has virtually no nutritional value, and a sugar-loaded soda that drastically affects blood sugar levels. Even school lunches have not promoted healthy eating habits. They serve cheap fried foods and foods made with fatty meats or high in carbohydrates.

It's too bad the songs teenagers hear today don't have words like this: "You love junk food, you love to be fast, but your body is unhappy, and your heart will not last . . ."

Rewriting the Words

During the teenage years, the body changes more rapidly then it does at any other time of life. If poor nutritional habits are followed in childhood, the results quickly become apparent during the teenage years.

Part of the reason is because teens take more control over what they eat, and their nutritional choices are often quite poor.

Between the sedentary lifestyle and an inadequate diet that does not meet the needs of a changing body, teenagers are getting heavier and heavier. Teen nutrition is key through healthier eating.

Teenagers need to sing along to a different song when it comes to nutrition. Their rapid body growth means they need a song with verses about increased calcium , iron and protein needs, and other supplements.

They should eat a balanced diet that includes daily servings of whole grains, fresh vegetables, a variety of fruits, low fat dairy and lean meats and fish. The amount of sugar and carbohydrates should be restricted which means changing the typical teenage snacks.

Teen nutrition is a hot topic today, because overweight or obese teens are more likely to develop weight related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and to experience eating disorders. Teaching teens how to eat nutritionally, even when on the go, can lead to a new song. This song is all about healthy lifestyles that will last long beyond the teenage years.

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Success has a simple formula: do your best, and people may like it. Sam Ewing