Keeping in Pace with Generation Y Sanirose S. Orbeta, M.S., R.D., FADA Board Member, PASOO Consulting Clinical and Sports Nutritionist Growing up is a wonderful adventure but it is also the stage when one is very vulnerable. Adolescents constantly fall prey to social pressure to try different things even if the practice is unhealthy. Most females of this age group and quite a number of males have a negative body image, and that may lead to depression about food or dieting – ultimately to the development of eating disorders. Our young people live in a culture that tells them that their bodies are less than perfect and that promotes destructive values like fasting, smoking and drinking. Worse, all these trends are glorified through the media. Thus, weight, appearance and eating have become obsessive concerns for many teens. For these teens, nutrition means different things. They do not use healthful eating as a priority because they still do not see the connection between proper nutrition and well-being. They are not yet, for instance, affected by the bodily aches and pains common in old age and consider themselves too young to worry about health. Many teens also do not find fruits, vegetables, grains and dairies appealing. They feast on junk food and fast food since they think the taste of food is more important than its nutritive value. Many teenagers also do not realize the importance of eating healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables since these are not available in their homes. Because of time pressure, parents often just buy instant meals or easy, ready-to-cook foods, making wholesome home-cooked mealsrare. In some cases, teenagers feel that healthy options are too expensive for their allowance. But, we, as health professionals should counteract these mistaken notions and harmful practices. Correct nutritional intake during adolescence is important for growth, long-term health promotion, and the development of healthy lifelong eating habits and behaviors. Total nutrient needs are highest in adolescence than at any other time in the life cycle of man because of rapid growth and development. Nutritional intake during this period may have long-term health implications, if not met. For example, being overweight as an adolescent is associated with being overweight as an adult. Fat intake during adolescence may be associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension in later years, while decreased dietary calcium intake has been shown to lead to low bone density in adolescents, as well as to the possibility of osteoporosis later in life. The following pointers may help these growing years: Nutrition Tips for this “Cool Sandwich Generation” 1. Help them maintain a healthy weight at all times. This is the right time to correct any fluctuations in weight. If they are underweight for their height, age and activity, they need to gain weight. If they are overweight, now is the proper time to lose those unwanted pounds. 2. Encourage them to start their day right with a good breakfast. Rushing to school is always a problem in the morning. There are easy gulp-and-go foods like liquid cereals (Nestlé’s Nesvita) or those little boxes of cereals (Milo Balls, Honey stars, Koko Crunch) to eat while in the car or school bus on their way to school. And nothing is easier to eat than a piece of fresh fruit like banana, apple, orange, pear, or grapes. Bite-size sandwiches with ham and cheese or tuna filling are also perfect for popping into the mouth. 3. Have the correct snack all the time. Most teens come home from school tired and famished! Make sure that nutritious snacks are available to them. These can include grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza pan de sal, popcorn, fruit shakes, fresh fruits, boiled corn, and spaghetti or pansit. Having these foods handy teaches teens to make healthier and nutritious food choices in the future. 4. Abusive fats, sugars and salt are not healthy. Fats, sugars, and salt should be taken in moderation. Excessive amounts can develop into a habit and may pose a health threat in the future. Breaded fried chicken, breaded pork chop, chicken nuggets or breaded fish fillet are not bad and can be taken now and then but don’t make them a daily meal offering. 5. Water is often forgotten by teens. Encourage them to drink lots of water everyday. Water is necessary to hydrate the body and to transport nutrients to all the various organs and muscles. Colas, sodas, sports drinks, chocolate drinks, iced tea and coffee are okay but not as replacement for water, fresh fruit juices, fruit shakes, and milk. Unfortunately our teenagers are drinking more and more alcoholic drinks at a younger age so they have to be warned about alcohol abuse. Too much alcohol reduces bone density and could stunt the body’s growth if taken excessively during puberty. Similarly, too much coffee exposes the body to caffeine in which interferes with iron absorption by almost 90 per cent. This mineral is very vital for oxygen delivery in the blood. 6. Ask your children what they like to eat and discuss the pros and cons of their choices. Communicate and talk about the week’s menu. Fresh orange juice, for instance, is a better choice than powdered orange juices. Fresh pineapple slices are higher in fiber content than the canned ones. Encourage your children to take two to three tablespoons of vegetables each meal. Vegetables and fruits should always be a part of a complete meal and not just be used as garnishing or decoration. 7. Offer a variety of dishes with different cooking styles, textures and colors. Don’t be too dictatorial in their eating choices. Give them flexibility to select their own food. If they prefer eating spaghetti all the time, offer them a variety of sauces to choose from. Healthful ingredients like chopped mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, and cheese can be incorporated into the sauce. 8. Every food is a calorie! Help teens budget their food allowance to get the most nutrition out of our shrinking peso. Encourage the kids to save their allowance by taking breakfast at home. A full meal of rice, fried egg, corned beef hash, and fruit juice not only spares them additional expense but guarantees them a nourishing meal to help them face the demands of school work for the day. Dinner should be a parent’s best prepared meal. It should be creative, full of color and texture. Spare your teenagers from monotonous meals like burgers, fried tapa or tocino, and fried chicken. Prepare dishes they have not tried before like arroz a la cubana complete with raisins, green peas, fried egg and fried saba bananas. A Chinese dish of diced chicken or beef and rice topped with crunchy diced vegetables is a great one-dish meal! 9. All foods are ‘in” but moderation is the key! Burgers, fries, pizza, tacos, and other fast foods are not totally “junk.” Although most of these foods are loaded with calories and fats and lack vitamins and minerals, they can be eaten in moderation or as a stand-by food just in case teens are in a rush or have forgotten their baon. But they should be eaten only occasionally. 10. Encourage them to take all kinds of carbohydrates and make these food group in their meals. carbohydrates the main Foods loaded with carbohydrates include not only rice, noodles, pasta, breads, cereals, and root crops but also fruits, juices, vegetables and salads as well.
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