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Teenagers – they rove-eat-sleep and grow!

Adolescence is a time of rapid growth and development. Feeding patterns change and often family mealtimes are interrupted by sporting events or after school work commitments. They also want to spend more time with their friends eating away from home or on the run.

This can stretch the family budget if children want more pocket money to cover food consumed away from home.

Alongside this they are growing rapidly. Boy’s growth rates tend to spurt between 12-17yrs and so their hunger seems to know no bounds while for girls, development occurs earlier between 10-14yrs following which they may become more weight conscious in their mid teens and more picky in their eating behaviour.

Parents may feel frustrated as they try to balance their own mid-life nutrient needs as well as their off springs.

Here are some tips to help:

  • Encourage children of all ages to eat regularly and to have breakfast. Even if breakfast is at noon, get some cereal, toast, fruit along with some protein such as yoghurt, cheese or egg into them to aid growth.
  • This may mean that lunch comes at 2-3pm and dinner at 6-7pm but at least this way grazing will be less of a problem and better blood sugar control will aid concentration and behaviour.
  • If they are mooching around looking for food then offer bulky snacks such as bread, fruits and vegetables sticks.
  • Snacks can contribute up to 35% of energy intake so go for foods that improve growth and physical performance but also are filling. Muffins, scones, pikelets, or fruit loaf are more filling with less salt and fat than crisps and biscuits.
  • Push fluids-low fat milk, water, milo, milkshakes, tea and coffee are preferable to soft drinks and cordial. (Just watch the caffeine intake of younger children because the smaller they are the lower their tolerance).
  • If children want to buy takeaways then hamburgers, pizza, souvlakis, sushi and panini’s are healthier options to fried foods.
  • Also encourage them to sleep, especially over the holidays as research have shown that sleep aids growth, helps to control appetite and weight and lowers body fat.
  • Encourage children to be physically active but understand too that this will make them hungrier as their energy needs are split three ways to cover mental and physical growth and development plus physical performance.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

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