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July is Teen/Young Adult Month!

“What you feel, you become, 

what you think, you attract, 

what you imagine, you create.”

Buddah



Now Is The Best Time To Advocate For Your Health!

With adulthood being a few years away, this is the perfect time for you to learn about something incredibly important...your health. 


Most teens and young adults have enough on their plates with homework, exams, college prep, extracurriculars and what to wear to their friend’s party next weekend. Most young people don’t want to add what to eat and drink to an already long list of responsibilities they are facing. Here’s the good news….a little nutritional insight can help shape healthy habits and set you up for success! I’m going to give you some background first to help you build your knowledge from a strong foundation on up.


Did You Know...

For children and adolescents aged 2-19 years, the prevalence of obesity was 18.5% and affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents. 


Understanding Calories

Calories are a unit of energy. Food and drinks provide energy for your body and fuel your system so you can walk, run, talk and even breathe. Everything we do requires energy BUT different people need different amounts AND not all calories are the same.


Calories need to be adjusted per gender, age, height, weight, how active you are each day (which can vary) and let’s not forget genetics. All these factors contribute to how many calories you need for optimal health.


Calories can be Nutrient Dense, meaning they are packed with vitamins and minerals such as vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.


Calories can be Energy Dense, meaning they are packed with fat and carbs but void of any real vitamins and minerals such as processed cakes, cookies, soda, sweet teas, sugary drinks and confectionery solid/sweets in general. The overconsumption of these foods can cause weight gain.


What’s A Healthier Choice To Make?

Fruits and vegetables with bright colors such as dark leafy greens and vibrant oranges, reds and yellows. These are a wonderful place to start amping up your health and are full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber.


A good habit is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Not sure how much is enough? Take a look at my March Blog to find more information about serving size guidelines. 


Grains:

Choose whole grains such as whole grain bread, brown rice, and oatmeal over refined white bread and white rice.


Protein:

Choose lean meats such as chicken, turkey, pork and seafood over red meat and processed sausage. Cooking methods count...try to roast these in the oven instead of breading and frying. Good vegetarian sources of protein are tofu, egg whites, nuts, seeds and seafood.


Dairy:

This category can be up to your discretion: If you are trying to lose weight or just be healthier, I might recommend you choose low-fat dairy such as milk, and greek style yogurt over full fat dairy. However, you are still growing, and if you are active or a young athlete (this includes sports/dance etc.), I might suggest full fat dairy since you will burn those extra calories in a work out or at practice and dairy is helpful in repairing muscle tissues post exercise/workout. 


If you are lactose intolerant, there are plenty of options from coconut milk (this will have a higher fat content) soy, cashew and almond based milk alternatives to choose from.


When choosing yogurts, I always recommend going for the plain flavor and adding your own berries/nuts/seeds to it. Most flavored yogurts are loaded with sugar and extra calories. Try to stick with one that has about 8 grams of sugar per a 1 cup serving. 


Fat:

Fat is not the enemy. Fat is a necessary component in your diet, especially as you are growing and developing. It helps with cell growth and serves to cushion your organs and keep your body warm. Fat helps absorb some vitamins in your system and produces important hormones. It can also keep your skin and hair healthy.


You may have heard the term “healthy fats”. This is a true story but there are several different types of fats in food. Healthy fats (unsaturated fats) are Omega 3 fats and can be found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel. Avocados, walnuts, flaxseed/chia seeds are a good vegetarian source for omega 3’s. Oils such as olive, flaxseed, avocado and canola oil also contain healthy fat. (Hint: A little of these sources goes a long way so be sure not to over indulge on the oil.)


You’ll see saturated and unsaturated fats the most. Choosing unsaturated fats (usually plant based fats) are the most beneficial to your overall health. Saturated fats examples are red meats, butter, lard, ice cream, palm kernel oil). 


I’m not saying that you should never eat saturated fats. Some such as full fat dairy and coconut oil in small quantities can add health benefits to your diet. I know, it can get confusing sometimes. The key is moderation. If weight loss is your goal, there are plenty of delicious and nutritious healthy choices out there for you to succeed. What we don’t want is for you don’t feel like you're sacrificing anything, just making a better choice for yourself. 


Motivating Teenagers…..It Is Possible!

Now I understand right away that you have to be motivated to exercise, much like you have to be motivated to change your eating habits. The words “exercise’ and “diet” may be viewed as defeating concepts and if that’s the case, then we’ve lost before we even started. 


Let’s forget the concept of exercising to look better since tenneagers and young adults have spent the majority of their online lives looking at images of people and celebrities being portrayed through an unrealistic lens. Instead, let’s focus on just “feeling better”. 


This is a healthier approach is really the root of what we are aiming for….a higher quality life experience on a daily basis. How we feel physically (not how we wish we looked but how we feel) each day is a huge contributor to what we accomplish during our days. 


For example: Did you stay up late studying for a test and drinking coffee and now it’s exam time and you’re exhausted and unfocused and just want to go home and sleep? Did you have a fight with your friend and drowned your sorrows in a pint of ice cream and now feel sick to your stomach (which can make your mood feel even worse)? These are things that sometimes happen and I have been on the unpleasant side of both scenarios myself, so this is not a judgement, we’re human.


The one thing we do have control over is our choices. This in itself is an empowering feeling. You can choose to stay in your room and pour over instagram and how many (or how few) likes a school mate got, or you can choose to go outside for some fresh air and start with a walk. Neither choice is right or wrong but…IT IS YOUR CHOICE!


Even when it feels like your parents run your life, making simple everyday choices such as, I think I’ll take a break from the computer and do some yoga outside, or walking to a friend’s house or taking a nice bike ride all lead to a better choice down the road. Positivity begets positivity. The more you make a healthier choice for yourself, no matter how small, it’s likely that the next choice will follow suit. 


For example: I took a nice walk and now I’m going to replace my glass of soda with a glass of water. It may seem like nothing but 12 oz of soda can contain about 39 grams of sugar (almost 10 teaspoons)! Replacing soda with water can help you sleep better, feel more hydrated, improve blood pressure, reduce anxiety and reduce the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. 


Exercise During Covid

Whatever activity you enjoy doing is a great place to start! I’m going to contradict myself a bit but sometimes, putting down the computer to exercise is not an option. I myself have enjoyed participating in several free online yoga videos over the past few months (cause that in studio class is too expensive, and also not likely to be an option this summer) so do some exploring and find some YouTube teachers that speak to you. The great thing about yoga (and all exercise) is that it gets us out of our heads and into our bodies and teaches us how to be present in the moment. Choose what activity you like to do and see if there’s a way to do it. Go for that bike ride, hike that trail not far from your house or simply take a walk around the neighborhood. Not everyone can do this since we are all trying to social distance so an easy workout in your front/back yard will also be a great option. My point is that exercise can be very enjoyable and refreshing. It doesn’t have to be a chore or a punishment. Just try it on your terms with what you like to do and I promise you’ll feel the difference. 


Managing Stress and Depression

Please see my April Blog for more in depth material related to relaxation, meditation and breathing exercises.


Nutritional Resources for Teens And Young Adult 


These are all Free resources that you can look over if you'd like for more information, and remember….Health starts from the inside out!


To discuss more detailed information regarding the topics within this blog, or to inquire about customized nutrition plans, please reach out to Cathleen Winter at wellnesswithin.cw@gmail.com


A little about me:

My name is Mary DeBlasio, and I live in Silver Spring, MD. I am currently a student studying Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of the District of Columbia. I am set to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in May of 2021. I am very interested in mindful eating, and foods that correlate with the seasons. My goal after graduation is to pursue a dietetic internship with a focus on clinical dietetics. I am interested in transplant, renal and gastrointestinal issues. All the information presented within this blog is backed by the credible sources cited below.


Sources:

Childhood Obesity Facts. (2019, June 24). Retrieved June 29, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html


Ellis, R. (n.d.). Hard Facts about Soft Drinks. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/nutrition-facts-and-food-labels/hard-facts-about-soft-drinks


Ph.D., C. (2017, August 07). Motivating Your Adolescent to Exercise. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201708/motivating-your-adolescent-exercise








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