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We all know that teens have a mind of their own, so how can we try to encourage them to live a healthier, and therefore happier, life? Health Coach Neelam Daswani shares some advice
As a health coach, I often have the pleasure of working with teenagers on optimising their health and nutrition for energy, focus and a general state of well-being. The four areas I cover include nutrition, understanding hidden sugars, sleep, and the role of mindfulness in their daily lives.
Eating healthily is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and is something that should be taught at a young age but it’s not too late even in the teen years.
I encourage teens (and everyone, really) to start their day with a high protein breakfast along with a source of fat. Beginning the day with a savoury, high protein breakfast – such as avocado toast with two eggs and a bowl of Greek yoghurt and berries – may help curb sugar cravings during the day. A teenager needs 1 gram of protein for every kilo of body weight, hence planning meals around protein is key. Also make sure to include fat, fibre, and protein in all three meals of the day.
Additionally, it is important to understand your child’s individual nutrition needs based on their lifestyle. For example, physically active, sporty teens have different needs from their more sedentary counterparts.
Hidden sugars are everywhere! Sugar can cause anxiety and digestive discomfort in teens so it’s important to keep an eye on this one. Sugar is now labeled as a recreational drug. Studies show excessive sugar can cause a negative impact on academic performance, learning and memory, as well as cognitive deficits.
Learning to read nutrition labels can be helpful in identifying hidden sugars. Teaching your children the importance of checking food labels can help with awareness when reaching for packaged foods. Some useful information to keep in mind is that 4 grams of sugar is roughly equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. The recommendation for children and teens is to consume LESS than 6 teaspoons per day (even less is best) which means less than 24 grams.
It is important to educate teens to stay away from processed sugars. An easy rule of thumb is to avoid anything that contains ingredients that end with a “ose” like maltose, fructose, and sucralose. My favourite alternative to sugar for teens is “monk fruit sugar”.
Sleep / Mindfulness
Teenagers tend to sleep much later over the years and this can get tough during the school week when they have to be up early. This age group needs 8–10 hours of sleep each night.
If they are falling asleep during the day, this is a clear indication they are not getting enough sleep. Since maintaining adequate amounts of quality sleep is essential to optimal health and well- being, it’s important to make an effort to get the necessary sleep.
If your teen is feeling run-down, struggling to focus, or feeling irritable for no clear reason, you may want to look into their sleep patterns. Possible causes of insomnia can include anxiety and stress, so it’s key to understand why your child is feeling this way.
In a fast-paced world, many teenagers forgo sleep and overextend themselves to catch up on work and other responsibilities. To help combat these problems and to get optimal sleep, sleep hygiene is crucial.
One easy way to start is to ensure their devices are being charged away from their beds, ideally even in the living room.
Other helpful tips for sleep include:
• Sleep hygiene education
• Maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule
• Avoid bright lights and screens before bedtime
• Introduce Magnesium Glycinate 1 hour before bed – Magnesium can help with relaxing the nervous system and is a mineral most people are deficient in.
• Mindfulness – build self-esteem, manage stress, and skillfully approach challenges.
Encouraging your teens to lead a healthier lifestyle can be challenging, but with the right guidance and understanding, it’s entirely possible. By incorporating these healthy habits and tips into their daily routine, your teens can thrive both mentally and physically. Equip them with the knowledge and tools to make healthier choices and nurture their well-being, ensuring a brighter, happier future.
Neelam Daswani is a certified Health Coach through the Integrated Institute of Nutrition (NYC). www.neelampurehealth.com
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Prioritising Wellness in Schools
Useful Apps for Tweens and Teens