During infancy, your child’s first growth spurt, he or she needed nutrient-dense foods to help support his or her rapid growth into the active, bright child he or she is today. What I like to call “the second growth spurt” takes place during the tween years, that is from ages 9 – 12. This is when your child enters puberty and starts to physically transform into an adolescent. It’s also when your tween needs maximum amounts of nutrients for the opportunity to grow strong (mind and body) and set the stage for their future health, by eating well, sleeping well and keeping active.
“Mommy, I’m still hungry!” is what I constantly hear from my 11-year-old tween. In the mornings, she will have already had a bowl of chia oatmeal with almonds, dried cranberries and cinnamon, with a serving of fruit and a glass of water, when I find her digging in the fridge looking for more to eat. I’m no longer looking at my baby girl, but a tween who has grown three-to-four inches during the last year and a half. Wow, where have all the years gone? It feels like it was just yesterday when I wasn’t sure that she was ready for solid foods.
Tweens will have varying appetites through puberty. At times, their hunger will seem larger than possible, and I say let them eat. If my tween needs a couple of eggs added to her chia oatmeal, it’s all good. Healthy eating can increase their energy, focus their minds and have a balancing effect on their stress and emotional well-being. The key is healthy eating, and the key to healthy eating is quality food.
Let’s make this as simple as possible: EAT Real Whole Foods!
Real, whole foods provide growing bodies with the nutrients needed to support rapid growth and stave off hunger.
- Incorporate three meals and two snacks per day.
- Breakfast is important to fuel the body after a good night’s sleep (fasting). Don’t skip breakfast. You want start the day on full, not empty, and set your metabolism. Stay away from overly processed sugary cereal or donuts. It’s more nutritious to have leftover dinner for breakfast.
- Incorporate protein at every meal while adding lots of vegetables and legumes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Fruits, whole grains and dairy balance the nutrients needed in each meal.
- Skipping meals can cause cravings for sugar and junk food in order to get a quick fix of energy. Eating more regularly and adding two snacks will prevent these cravings, help sustain blood sugar levels and keep a steady metabolism for optimal energy.
- Sleep 8-10 hours per night.
- Drink 6-8 cups of water per day.
By following these tips, your tweens will be on their way to making a smoother transition from adolescence to adulthood.