Your Teens Nutrition Choices

Has your teenager started making some unhealthy food choices? Have they gone against what you practice in your home, choosing a higher fat lunch of french fries and burgers over something more balanced that you would have provided from your kitchen? I was following a post on a Facebook page from real mom dietitian, Sally Kuzemchak, M.S., R.D. @RealMomNutrition, about a dilemma with her own teenage son and some regular fast food choices he was making. I recently went through similar challenges with my two oldest daughters. Last school year, I had two girls in middle school. Both girls were repeatedly asking for money for school lunch, mainly pizza and ice cream bars. They also started going to a local drug store after school for candy and slushies, and later to a local coffee shop for coffee drinks. This year, with my oldest in high school, she and her friends love to go to on “nug runs” for fast food. Every aspect of my teenager’s existence seems to revolve around her friends and eating. And, honestly, I love it! With the vast amount of technology sources that our kids have, most teens are socializing less and less face-to-face. If my girls want to spend time hanging-out in “real-life”, I am all for it! Isn’t that an important part of social development? But, I also know that I don’t want my kids consuming all that junk food. Here are a few simple solutions I implemented that have worked beautifully in my household:

  1. Give a set monthly allowance: This is the single best things I have done to control what my girls are spending their money on. I give each girl a set amount of money each money. They have to put 10% away to give, 10% savings, and they can spend the rest. Their money can be spent on school lunches, social outings with their friends, school things they may want (all the t-shirts! sporting events), or something that they may want to buy. Once the money is gone for the month, it’s gone. My husband and I try to guide what they are spending their money, but ultimately it is their choice.

  2. Provide healthy choices at home: If they are going out a couple of times during the week or buying school lunch occasionally, I try to make sure what is being offered at home is healthy. I provide all kinds of nutritious options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If they buy a high calories, sugary coffee drink after school, I know that a balanced dinner is waiting for them later that evening. It’s a great way to teach your child about balance and moderation—yes, you can have the treats, but not all the time. Oftentimes, the novelty of the junk will wear-off before you know it.

  3. Talk to your kids about what good nutrition looks like in your home: As the parent, you decide what to buy, serve and provide for your family in your home. As they leave the house, they make those decisions for themselves. Every family has their set of rules and limits when it comes to eating a variety of foods, including those more occasional foods. Your goals as the parent is that they take that knowledge with them in their decision making when you aren’t around. Like all of us, they will sometimes make great choices and other times they may make poor choices (isn’t that true with all aspects of our lives?). Keep the conversation open about nutrition in a light manner. Talk about fuel and energy, their sports performance, but also include topics about cooking, cultural foods that you make and food traditions—because food is an important part of who we are. Encourage your teen to invite friends over and offer to feed them! Spending time with teenagers over food will help open up tons of fun conversation topics.

    Ultimately, on my daughter’s last “nug run” she decided not to purchase any food at all. She loved being with her tribe, but said she didn’t like the way the junk sometimes makes her feel. She came home, made herself a sandwich and grabbed an apple.

Iron-Deficiency Anemia in Teen Girls

When working with teen athletes, I have been asked this question more frequently than others: Why are teen girls so prone to iron-deficiency anemia and what to do to help girls absorb more iron? The thing is, teen girls are very prone to this mineral deficiency. There are a couple of major factors that lead to this: their bodies aren’t able to store iron like a teen boys, they go through a period of rapid growth along with the start of menstruation, and often their diets usually don’t support high-quality iron foods. Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia are fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, pale skin, dizziness, fast breathing and irregular heartbeat. Girls can be diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia through simple blood work.

Eating a diet high in iron-rich foods is very important for all of our children and teens. Foods like: beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, cashews, dark leafy greens, dried beans and lentils, fortified breakfast cereal and whole grains are good sources of iron. High Vitamin C foods include citrus foods, berries, kiwi, cantaloupe and tropical fruits. Your kids should be eating foods from both groups at several meals each day.

If your teen is diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia, your doctor may prescribe a supplement for them to take. When taking an iron supplement, it is important to take it with a vitamin C food or beverage. Vitamin C will help your child’s body absorb the iron more efficiently. Also, your child may need to take their supplement with a little food to help ward off an upset stomach.

As far as recovery goes, your child should start to feel a little better after a few days on iron supplements and with a iron-rich diet. After 3-4 weeks, you should start seeing an increase in hemoglobin levels, however, your child may need to remain on a supplement for several months to regain normal hemoglobin levels.

As always, never begin a supplement without taking to your doctor. Focus on getting a variety of foods into your teen’s diets. If you have concerns about your teens diet, shoot me an email: heatherstefanrd@gmail.com or set up an appointment: www.heatherstefanrd.com/services

Keeping Young Athletes Hydrated

One of the repeating questions I get from parents is “What should my athlete be drinking before, during and after a game or practice?” This simple question is really dependent on the types of activities your child or teen is doing and the duration.

For most recreational sports, and less intense activities (rec soccer, baseball, volleyball, etc…), water is the best way to maintain and re-hydrate. Most kids on the sidelines will tote along a water bottle or jug. It’s important for parents and coaches to remind kids to take sips every 15 minutes or so while they are waiting their turn to play or go in the big game. Since most rec leagues are pretty short in duration (under 75 minutes long), there is no need to use special sport’s drinks to replenish electrolytes unless it is a very hot day.

When you get into more of your travel leagues, high school and middle school teams, and those activities that are longer in duration (travel soccer, two-a-day football practices, swimming, cross country), I suggest keeping water handy at all times. But, the difference with these high-intensity activities, most of our kids are coming into their games or practices already dehydrated. Studies show that 75-80% of teens go to practice mildly dehydrated. It’s critical for parents and coaches to encourage fluids throughout the day. This can be challenging when most of these athletes are spending the first six-eight hours each day at school. Setting a timer on a phone or Ipod can help remind students to carry a water bottle to class or to take sips in between class periods.

If your child is practicing for longer duration each day (greater than 75 minutes), besides drinking water, a sports drink may help refuel their electrolyte needs. Sports drinks can be very high in sugar, sodium, artificial colors and preservatives. When picking out a sports drink, just make sure that the sugar levels are low, and that there are no added supplements or caffeine. Generally, an 8 oz portion (one cup) is plenty to replenish any electrolytes lost, not the whole bottle. As a post-workout drink, I encourage my own teen athletes to carry a drink box size of low-fat chocolate milk. This is a great recovery drink not only to provide hydration, but it’s the perfect balance of proteins and carbohydrates for after a long practice or hard game.

If you are worried about your teen and their hydration, talk to your pediatrician or schedule an appointment with a dietitian who specializes in working with kids and athletes.

Article for I.am.every.girl

There is a newer website with fantastic articles to help empower young middle school and high school girls. I.am.every.girl has interviews with really cool women, health information, and just a whole bunch of stories to help teen girls navigate life. Having three girls of my own, finding this site has been a gem! I love sharing inspiring articles with my own daughters. Check out my article for I.am.every.girl!

https://www.iameverygirl.com/healthy-girl/whats-a-girl-to-eat

Super Simple Applesauce

There is nothing better than having your whole house smell like fall! I love having quick, seasonal recipes around to make my home feel really special. This applesauce recipe really fits the bill! This recipe is very forgiving and can use apples that may be past their prime. I like to use what I have on hand, but varieties that are both tart and sweet seem to yield the best results. This is also the perfect starter recipe for kids and teens to make after school. Here is my quick, yummy applesauce recipe that can come together for a easy snack or side-dish to any meal.

Super Simple Applesauce

Yield about 2 cups

8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1/4 water

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 T of maple syrup depending on your taste

With a cutting board and garbage bowl or can available, begin peeling your apples. Use an apple corer to slice in to pieces and remove core and seeds. Toss into a heavy saucepan. Once your apples are ready to go, add your quarter cup of water and a 1 tsp. of cinnamon. Turn stove on to medium low. You will notice that the sugars from the apples will almost caramalize as the sugars are released. With the back of a wooden spoon, smash the apples as they cook. Once the mixture is cooked through, and your apples are nice and soft, turn off the heat. Use a potato masher, or the back of the wooden spoon, and mix your apples until it is in a thick, sauce-like consistency. I like my applesauce a little more rustic and chunky, but my girls like a smoother consistency. Taste the applesauce. At this point, I leave it—I like the tart flavor verses a sweet applesauce. If you are finding that it is too tart for your liking, drizzle a small amount of maple syrup, about a tablespoon, on the top. Mix and enjoy! This recipe will keep in the refrigerator up to 5 days in a sealed container, but it won’t last that long!