There is a LOT of info out there on healthy eating for teens. Blogs and magazine articles might make it seem like our understanding of how to be healthy changes every day—and it can get real confusing, real fast.
But at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, we like to keep things simple. You don’t have to have a medical degree to live a healthy lifestyle. Here are six simple healthy eating tips to keep in mind so you can become the healthiest version of yourself!
1. Eat breakfast
Eating breakfast helps jump start your metabolism and curb cravings for sweets throughout the day. A morning meal also gives you more energy and can help you focus better in school or at work. Go for something with whole grains and protein, rather than a pop tart or sugary cereal.
2. Avoid skipping meals
It’s not good for your body to go for a long time without nutrition. Plan out your day and throw an apple, banana, granola bar, or some trail mix in your backpack or purse. This can keep your body fueled all day long. We talk more about what skipping meals (especially lunch) does to your body here.
3. Cut back on sugary drinks
Most people know that soda is full of sugar — but did you know that drinks like Gatorade and Arizona Iced Tea still have more than a day’s worth of sugar in one serving? Try to cut the number of sugar sweetened beverages you drink in half. If you drink two a day, cut back to one and have water instead of the second! If you want a treat, go for unsweetened tea, low-fat milk or another healthy alternative to water, rather than something loaded with sugar.
4. Fill in missing food groups
Teens typically get enough carbohydrates and protein, but don’t eat all their fruits and veggies. It may be hard to get these food groups in at every meal, but aim for at least one serving every meal (or, if that doesn’t feel possible, every day). If you don’t like salad, go for carrots and celery dipped in hummus or add veggies to a whole wheat pita wrap.
5. Eat a balanced diet without completely denying yourself
Pizza may not be the most nutritious meal, but you don’t have to give it up completely! Try to balance one unhealthy thing you love to eat with a healthy option as well. Go for pizza loaded with veggies rather than sausage or pepperoni. If you grab a slice of pizza for lunch, eat a banana as well — then you will hit a serving of fruit AND satisfy your cravings.
6. Get active
We know this isn’t technically about what you eat, but getting physically active is such an important part of your health we threw it in anyways! When you break a sweat doing exercises like walking, jogging or dancing, you’re elevating your heart rate. This keeps your body and your mind healthy, and it can help boost your mood and make you feel better overall! Even if you can’t get the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise in, just going for a 10 minute walk can make a huge difference.
If you’re interested in working out more, talk to your doctor or come see our nutritionist at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center. If you’re in NYC, you can join our free Teen Fit program, designed with you in mind!
A version of this article was published in January 2016, based on an interview with Elizabeth Tripp, MS, RD. All gifs courtesy of giphy.com.
The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 12,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.