We are in the lucky position of being able to mould and shape the lives of future generations. As the youth of our country gain their independence and start to make their own decisions, it’s up to us to guide them along the way – especially when it comes to nutritional decisions.
The habits we teach our children will follow them into adulthood. We need to be careful about how we approach the topic of healthy eating. Too much pressure and they’ll stop following a healthy diet as soon as they’re able to. Education is key to developing a lifelong habit.
Nicole Henderson said it best: “The early years are when you set a foundation for your child in terms of establishing a proper diet. If kids discover the importance of eating healthy early in their lives, they will not have to re-learn as an adult.”
The importance of nutrition coaching
We often overlook the importance of nutrition coaching when it comes to adolescents. This puts them at risk of developing unhealthy eating behaviours as a result of their lack of knowledge. This is where we can assist and make a difference. We need to position ourselves as role models and experts in this area so that adolescents are able to make informed decisions.
The difficulties with adolescent nutrition
Adolescents often have busy and chaotic schedules as they balance schooling with extra-curricular activities and family life. In addition to this, society, media and their peers may be leading them astray and even promote unhealthy behaviours in an attempt to “fit in”.
This becomes problematic as the adolescent body is still developing and nutritional deficiencies can result in developmental delays and difficulties. Their bodies require additional vitamins and minerals to promote growth.
Supporting growth and development
Adolescents require diets that are rich in:
- Energy: Adolescents need to consume between 1,600 and 3,000 calories a day to fuel their daily activities as well as growth and development.
- Vitamin D and calcium: These nutrients play an important role in bone strength and development. The recommended daily allowance is 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily.
- Iron: This increases blood volume and promotes a lean body mass. Fifteen milligrams are needed for girls, while boys only need 11 milligrams.
- Fruits and vegetables: This provides dietary fibre and micronutrients essential for growth and development.
Unfortunately, junk foods and fast foods are more appealing and more easily accessible, which could result in unhealthy conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar and irritable bowels. In the same breath, too little calories can also result in health conditions as the body lacks the support and nutrition needed to maintain muscle mass and healthy development.
This is where education comes into play. Adolescents need to know what they should be consuming and in what quantities, as well as what they should be avoiding. The way in which we communicate this needs to be carefully thought out as force or pressure will push them in the opposite direction. It’s up to us to ensure that our youth are able to look forward to a healthy future.
Setting the right nutritional foundation for adolescents is crucial. Learn more about teaching children correct nutritional habits by taking our Nutrition for Children Course. Read more here.