Junk foods such as candy, sodas and greasy snacks can be detrimental for people of all ages, but the consequences for teens are especially high. Learn why teens need to be especially cautious about fueling their bodies properly.
Growth & development
When teens consume a large portion of their daily calories from junk food sources, it’s unlikely that they’re taking in all of the nutrients necessary for growth and development. During the teen years, adolescents gain approximately 20 percent of their height and 50 percent of their weight; if they’re not fueling their bodies with healthy foods, their development can be hindered. This is especially true for key nutrients such as calcium and protein that help bones and muscles strengthen and grow. Teens should aim to consume roughly 1,200 mg of calcium each day and about 10 to 15 percent of their daily food intake from lean proteins such as chicken and fish.
Regularly consuming high-fat, high-sugar and high-calorie junk food can lead to weight gain quickly in teens. Unfortunately, individuals who become overweight or obese during adolescence are unlikely to achieve and maintain a healthy weight later in life. Excess body fat is associated with numerous detrimental health consequences such as heart disease, diabetes, joint problems, poor self esteem and even cancer. By encouraging healthy food choices during the teen years, you can give your teenager a better shot at a healthier life down the road.
Sugary foods and drinks can harm teens’ dental health, leading to an increased risk for tooth decay and gum disease. While this is true for people of all ages, teens are more likely to be wearing orthodontia that can trap sugars next to the teeth and gums, making them more difficult to brush away. The extended presence of these sugars can lead to an increase in the mouth bacteria that contribute to cavity formation. Try to steer teens away from candy and soda while also promoting proper dental care.
Fatigue & poor concentration
Teens who don’t receive proper nutrients from a diet rich in vitamins and minerals are likely to end up feeling fatigued. This fatigue can lead to poor concentration in school and poor performance on tests. Encourage your teen to avoid the high-fat, high-sugar junk, opting instead for “brain food” that includes 100 percent whole-grain carbohydrates, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and dairy products rich in vitamin D, B vitamins and iron.