Tween Nutrition Part Two- Making Healthy Choices

March 23, 2017
 / 
Leslie Dixon
 / 
Joo Han

Joo Han

A guest post from Joo Han, Holistic Health Coach

Medial professionals recommend certain nutrients to support tweens during puberty. I am not a medical professional, but as a Holistic Health Coach and a mom of two I believe these recommendations are most helpful.

Proteins

Clean protein builds, maintains and repairs the tissues in your body. Good sources: Grass-fed, pasture raised, organic and wild seafood, beef, chicken, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Fifty percent of all skeletal growth happens during adolescence. You need calcium combined with Vitamin D (for best absorption) during this growth spurt for strong bone development. (In addition, weight-bearing exercises also develop and maintain strong bones.) Good sources for Vitamin D: Broccoli, dark leafy greens (collard, kale, bok choy), legumes (baked, navy, white and other beans).

Iron

Boys and girls both need additional iron. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, which is a protein that carries oxygen to the cells for energy production. Girls tend to be deficient in iron due to their menstrual cycle. Good sources: Dark leafy greens, lentils, lamb, beef and organ meats.

Zinc

Zinc is needed for the body’s immune system to fight off bacteria and viruses. It also supports metabolism, breaking down carbohydrates. Good sources: Beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, shiitake mushrooms, lentils, chickpeas and quinoa.  

Smart Fats

Your brain is the fattiest organ in your body and may consist of at least 60 percent fat. The brain has completed most of its growth by adolescence, but vital connections are made during the teen years. These fats are brain food; make sure to incorporate them into your meals. Healthy fats like organic virgin coconut oil, grass fed or organic butter or ghee and organic extra virgin olive oil are essential for brain development.

Water

Keeping hydrated is essential for our bodies to function optimally. Tweens need six-to-eight cups of water per day– more if participating in a sport. Clean, filtered water is your best source.

Vitamins

As we try to feed our tweens nutritious food, it’s not always easy. For picky eaters or tweens who eat more than their share of junk food over nutritious meals, a high quality multi-vitamin is good option to support their bodies.

Soft Drinks

Stay away from soft drinks, if you want your tweens to grow and stay strong. They contain phosphoric acid, which can rob one’s body of calcium and interfere with bone growth or bone strength.

Sleep

Tweens seem to have a harder time waking up in the morning. Their internal body clocks can cause them to fall asleep and wake up later. Lack of sleep affects mood, and a depressed mood can lead to lack of sleep. This can become a vicious cycle. Prioritizing sleep and focusing on healthy sleep habits is highly recommended. Keeping regular sleep and wake schedules, 8-to-10 hours per night, on school nights and weekends will support getting a consistently good night’s sleep.

My tween/teenage years could have been so much better. I wish I had known that eating better and sleeping better would have helped with acne and stress, but more importantly with my focus in class. Who knew that if I had cut out junk food, soda and gotten more sleep that my body and brain would have functioned better? I could have studied less, been a stronger athlete and maybe grown a little taller…

Dietary Guidelines for Tweens by the Mayo Clinic:

Ages 9 to 13: Daily Guidelines for Girls

Calories

1,400-2,200, depending on growth and activity level

Protein

4-6 ounces

Fruits  

1.5-2 cups

Vegetables    

1.5-3 cups

Grains

5-7 ounces

Dairy  

3 cups

  

Ages 9 to 13: Daily Guidelines for Boys

Calories

1,600-2,600, depending on growth and activity level

Protein

5-6.5 ounces

Fruits

1.5-2 cups

Vegetables

2-3.5 cups

Grains

5-9 ounces

Dairy

3 cups

 

Educate and Model Good Nutrition

Educating our kids about what “is” and “is not” nutritious food enables them to make better decisions for themselves. Like manners, we teach them through example and repetition. They may not always use it, but they will have it in their toolbox. It’ll just “click” one day, and making healthy choices will become second nature. Just as eating with their mouth closed will (hopefully) become second nature.

Eating well-balanced meals together as a family also models good nutritional habits. Teaching kids to cook is one of the most helpful ways to engage them in healthy eating. I sat my toddler on the counter as she cut vegetables – red bell peppers, cucumbers and romaine – for meals.  She always wanted to taste what she cut and prepped.  This brought a positive way to try new foods without forcing or cajoling at the table.  It was a natural process of learning to prepare and eat well.  

In our home, we eat clean proteins, fats, vegetables, fruit, a variety of beans and whole grains and dairy. We keep processed/junk food, sugary snacks and soda to an absolute minimum. (As you can see, I didn’t say never. This is a conscious choice, because if you say never, it creates more fascination in these unhealthy foods.)

As a health coach, I have taught my kids to read food labels. I typically skip the nutrition facts and go straight to the ingredients list. Why? Because it’s about quality whole foods, not about counting calories. For example, calories from sugar is not as nutritious as the same amount of calories from vegetables. Ingredients are listed on the label in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first. So if, sugar is listed as the first ingredient on a juice box, that may not be the best choice. Look for fruit as your first ingredient with no added sugar.

So ask yourself and your tween these questions after eating certain foods:

  • How did I feel after having an omelet for breakfast?
  • How did I feel after having a donut for breakfast?
  • How did I feel after having no breakfast?
  • Did any of these food help with energy? Did it make me tired? Less focused? Feel irritable?

It’s important to stay in tune with your own body’s response to foods.

Help your tween and your family, make better food choices to create a strong body and mind to support a smoother transition through adolescence.

Tween Nutrition Part Two- Making Healthy Choices

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