Body & Fitness

Dr Libby Weaver explains what teens need nutritionally

There’s a fine line with teenagers.

We all know the importance of a balanced diet, but when it comes to advising our teens about healthy eating, it can be hard to get those good habits to stick. So we caught up with Dr Libby Weaver for her expert advice on what teens need nutritionally, how we can help them make positive changes, and simple tips and tricks for setting a good foundation – for them, and the whole family – in the home.

“I think it needs to start with language,” Dr Libby explains. “There’s a fine line with teenagers around not making certain food forbidden, and not labelling foods as good and bad.

“One of the other simplest and most beneficial things you can do for your family’s health is add more veggies to their diet wherever you can. In New Zealand we’re told we need two pieces of fruit and three servings of vegetables and in Australia the kids are taught two pieces of fruit and five servings of veggies. But in both countries less than ten percent of people get that.”

When it comes to family meals, avoiding artificial preservatives and flavours makes sense, but they may be lurking in more places than you think, Libby warns.

“Take hummus as an example – it’s a popular snack for kids and teens but some companies add sulphur-based preservatives, which have been shown to damage our gut bacteria. A lot of breads also have additives in them, so wraps without preservatives are often a good alternative as they don’t need a rising agent, so don’t have so many things added to them.”

And it’s not just what’s on their plate that’s a vital component of teen health, but also how effective their cells are at optimising nutrients and clearing waste.

“The best way to explain it is that every cell in the body eats food and eliminates waste,” says Libby. “The waste gets dumped into the lymphatic fluid, which needs to move away from the cell, so the body can get rid of it.

“Too many poor quality food choices mean those pathways become overwhelmed. The waste still needs to get out of the body so it will use the skin as an alternative exit ramp, which leads to breakouts, a common problem in that age bracket.”

For more of Dr Libby Weaver’s tips for family health, see the May issue of Good Health Choices

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