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What is on your adolescents’ plate?

Just ask any adolescent these days what they love to eat, and it’s not astonishing to hear that burgers, pizzas, cakes and pastries are the love of their life. Food has been the comfort for mankind for ages and the delectability of food decides its consumption particularly when it comes to adolescents. So, talking of adolescence first, it is the transitioning period from childhood towards adulthood and thereby their eating habits are also transforming owing to the physiological processes that are ongoing through their bodies.

It is also the phase when they are very particular about themselves and this too influences their eating habits hugely. Whether they are eating too little, or too much or are being restrictive towards certain foodstuffs, skipping meals or improperly spaced timings are some very crucial aspects of determining their nutritional status and overall well-being. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adolescence is recognised as a period of high nutritional risk, as dietary habits develop during this phase of life and are strongly influenced by the environment. This includes the effects of socio-cultural, emotional and behavioural factors, as well as the fact that adolescents become more independent and begin to have access to foods that are not available at home.

If we get into the reasoning how does all this start in the first place, for some adolescents it can be the consequence of unhealthy dietary practices since childhood days, and by this time it gets difficult to give up. In another instance, it can be due to the pressure from studies or exams that makes them so anxious that they don’t feel like eating healthy meals, and relishing the junk they treasure becomes their only respite from the tremendous to-do tasks at school or other emotional issues. Moreover, the accessibility and pocket-friendly calorie-laden foodstuffs which are just a few swipes away are a major factor towards transitioning their food habits.

When they are devoid of balanced meals on a habitual basis, and most of the foods they consume are from the energy-dense category (meaning high in calories and lacking in nutritional value) the outcome is obvious. They are more vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin A, vitamin D, folic acid, calcium, iron, or zinc deficiencies. If such unhealthier practices perpetuate, this can lead to major detrimental health consequences in adulthood. Obesity is on an alarming rise and one of its major reasons is unhealthy childhood and adolescent food habits.

Due to the fact that adolescents are at such a raw stage of their lives, they can’t be forced strictly to implement and savour healthy home-cooked meals, unlike childhood days. They have their own distinct choices by now and it is not a smooth ride to convince them. Hence, what is the doorway to resolving their eating issues?

Since adolescents tend to follow the likes of their peers and love to spend most of their time with them, counselling regarding their dietary habits in group settings will carry a powerful impact. This can be done in schools or colleges as workshops or webinars where they get to learn the role of healthy eating and how imperative it is in their mental and physical development. Needless to say, they need not give up their adorable junkies altogether but striking a balance between a balanced diet is the mantra.

As parents or guardians, we can get a bit trendy and innovative with the traditional meals that are more appealing to them keeping all the nutrients intact. It is also essential to develop a stronger connection with your teen and explain the value of wholesome meals to have better cognition and focus which is so needed to attain their goals and ambitions because what is on your adolescent’s plate matters!

The author is a General Physician, Content Creator, Health and Wellness Adviser.

She is based in Salalah, and can be reached at /

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