Balancing a teen's diet

FROM TOTS TO TEENS

October 29, 1991|By Dr. Alain Joffe

TC o Q: I'm a teen-ager. How can I maintain my average weight?

We're glad you asked. The sound eating and nutrition principles that you develop now will benefit you throughout your life. The best way to maintain your weight is to eat three regular meals each day. Skipping a meal will only increase the likelihood that you will snack on high-calorie foods or overeat at another meal.

When you do eat, try to eat balanced meals. These should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and starches (complex carbohydrates) like rice, corn, potatoes and bread.

Your source of protein should be lean meats, chicken (without the skin), low-fat dairy products (like yogurt), and fish. We tend to eat too much protein and if you have one or two servings a day, you'll get enough. Try to avoid fried foods (grill or bake them), cream sauces or gravies because they contain a lot of fat and cholesterol.

When you feel like a snack, opt for fruits, plain popcorn, pretzels or low-fat frozen yogurt instead of candy bars, ice cream or "snack cakes."

A real challenge is what to eat at fast food places. Again, roast beef sandwiches, grilled chicken, or the new "leaner" hamburgers are better choices than the fried foods or regular hamburgers. Avoid the extra calories that come with cheese or sauces. Pizza, too, is a better alternative and many places now serve salads.

One final way to help maintain your weight is to exercise for 30 minutes at least three times a week. Not only does this burn calories, but it improves your heart and lung function, and actually increases the amount of calories your body needs to work. Your school library or doctor can be helpful in giving you more information about this subject.

Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

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