In 2010, one-third of adolescents were overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Being overweight means a teen has excess body weight for height, which could be from bones, muscles or fat. A teen who is obese has too much body fat. Both conditions increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Simple, low-calorie meal plans combined with exercise fill your teen up and help her burn calories for weight loss.
Teen girls need about 1,800 to 2,400 calories per day while teen boys need 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day, depending on the age and level of physical activity, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Taking in more calories than a teen burns leads to weight gain. Your teen's doctor can help you determine an appropriate number of calories to maintain her health and can also help her drop unwanted pounds. Once you have the number of calories she need to maintain her weight, spread it out through the day to keep her feeling full without overdoing it. In general, help your teen choose a variety of foods from each food group, including fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein, while avoiding fast food, candy, soda, chips and other processed foods.
A healthy, low-calorie breakfast sets up your teen for making healthy decisions for the rest of the day. A morning meal also improves concentration and energy levels. A smoothie made with fresh frozen fruit, low-sugar yogurt and a bit of 100- percent fruit juice is a healthy breakfast that is portable and easy to drink on the bus or while walking to school. Eggs with fruit and whole-grain toast or oatmeal topped with berries are other filling, tasty options that are low in calories and high in nutrition.
Teens who make their own eating choices often rely on fast food or unhealthy school cafeteria choices at lunchtime. These meals might taste good, but many are high in fat and calories and low in nutrients, which hinders weight loss goals, notes Harvard Health Publications. Instead, encourage your teen to seek out healthy choices or pack her own lunch. A vegetable salad with chicken breast or a lean turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread with low-fat cheese and a piece of fruit are healthy options. A burrito with beans, lettuce, tomato and avocado or a baked potato topped with salsa and low-fat cheese are other easy meals for lunch at home or school.
Feeding your teen dinner gives you some control over what she eats since you likely prepare the meal for the family, suggests the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting her in on the action helps her learn to make healthy choices and increases the chances that she'll try new, healthy foods. Oven baked fish or chicken served with steamed vegetables and brown rice is an easy meal to prepare, but it's also low in fat and calories, helping your teen keep her intake under control. A thin-crust pizza topped with vegetables and low-fat cheese or a small serving of whole-wheat pasta with tomato sauce and a salad are other good choices, because they are lower in calories than their traditional counterparts.
Snacks are an important part of a teen's diet, even if she is trying to lose weight. They satisfy hunger between meals, which lowers the chance that she'll overdo it at mealtime, because she let herself get too hungry. MayoClinic.com suggests fruit, vegetables, low-fat yogurt, crackers and string cheese as healthy teen snacks.
- California Department of Public Health: Easy Meals and Snacks: A Healthy Cookbook for Teens
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- MayoClinic.com: Teen Weight Loss: Healthy Habits Count
- Weight Control Information Network: Helping Your Overweight Child
- President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition: Eight Healthy Eating Goals
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Childhood Overweight and Obesity
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Tips for Parents – Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Adolescent and School Health
- Harvard Health Publications: Think Fast When Kids Want Fast Food
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