“There’s nothing to eat in this house!”
Anyone with a teen can relate to this angry growl. This, after multiple trips to the grocery store, or even after your son has consumed the entire family meal before you arrive home. What’s a parent to do in the feeding-frenzy years? Read on.
First, it’s important to know your teenager. If weight is a problem, aim to provide filling, nutritious, lower-calorie options, and encourage exercise. But active, normal-weight teens growing rapidly will need calorie-dense selections, and they’ll need them often.
Calorie amounts for 14- to 18-year-olds vary. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a sedentary male teenager may need roughly 2,000 calories to maintain normal weight gain while an active teen could require 3,000 or more. A female in this age bracket ranges from 1,800 to 2,400 calories, depending on activity.
These ballpark-calorie amounts can also change based on growth spurts –– one day he is insatiable and the next like a complacent pig in mud, similar to their unpredictable mood swings!
Don’t panic if it appears like pounds are starting to accumulate. It could be she is perfectly fine on her growth chart. Talk to your doctor to determine if it is a problem.
Never put your teen on a calorie-restricted diet because this could inhibit growth and development. Focus instead on the quality of the diet, making sure to have balanced meals with vegetables, protein and nutritious starch options, such as brown rice, peas, sweet potato and the like.
Snacking accounts for 30 percent of teen calories. Allowing too many nutrient-poor snack choices will not support brain health and normal development. They tend to be higher in calories, too.
For example, a sedentary female requiring 1,800 calories for normal weight gain can put away 300 calories in two cans of soda and 800 calories in half a bag of potato chips.
Other options, such as fruit and yogurt (200 calories), veggie burger on a deli thin (250), cottage cheese and vegetables (250) or an egg sandwich on whole grain bread (300 calories), served with seltzer water or 1-percent milk, will not only trim calories but provide essential nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, protein and others.
Cutting the soda would be wise. Just one soda daily increases the risk of obesity by 30 percent, and more than two jumps the risk to 47 percent, according to recent research.
Active teens may benefit from liquid calories, but opt for nutrient-dense choices such as yogurt smoothies, chocolate milk and 100-percent fruit juices, such as orange juice that is rich in folic acid. Tame the hungry beast with calorie-dense nuts, dried fruit, granola, peanut butter toast, vegetable omelets, tuna melts, cereal and milk, or leftovers, such as chili or chicken with vegetables. Aim for wholesome ingredients for snacking rather than a bar or bag of processed food.
Consider making a snack list to post in the kitchen. Silently point to it for guidance when he roars for food, and honor his request to “stop nagging” at the same time.
Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and nutrition. Send your questions to her at www.wicked goodhealth.com. This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor before changing your diet.