COVID-19: 7 Diet And Lifestyle Tips For Adolescents

Here are seven ways to help adolescents ensure they have a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle that will support building their immunity and overall wellbeing.

| Sep 14, 2020

Adolescence is a period of rapid growth and development and brings about manifold changes in physical parameters, psychosocial wellbeing and nutrient requirements.

According to the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (2016-18), adolescents suffer from multiple nutritional deprivations- half of India’s adolescents (10 to 19 years) – almost 63 million girls and 81 million boys – have been found to be either short, thin, overweight or obese. Over 80% adolescents (10-19 years) suffer from ‘hidden hunger’, that is the deficiency of one or more micronutrients such as iron, folate, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
Furthermore, recent analyses of food consumption patterns in India reveal that diets of adolescents are deficient in protein-rich food groups and micronutrients, which are crucial for optimal immune function in adolescents, especially important in the time of COVID-19 outbreak.

COVID-19 outbreak has added additional challenges in maintaing a healthy diet, lifestyle and normal daily routine in our lives. Furthermore, disruptions in formal education and social interactions have contributed to increased stress and anxiety among adolescents.

Here are seven ways to help adolescents ensure they have a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle that will support building their immunity and overall wellbeing.

1. Eat a nutritious diet and stay hydrated

-Consume a nutritionally balanced diet daily including three types of foods - energy giving: cereals and millets such as wheat, rice, ragi, bajra, jowar, etc),
and fats/oils (nuts, oilseeds, cooking oil etc); body building: pulses (all dals, beans, legumes), eggs, flesh foods (meat, poultry, fish), milk and milk products
(curd, paneer, chaach etc); protective foods: seasonal fruits and vegetables (dark green leafy, yellow and orange coloured, citrus and other fruits).

-To meet increased nutrient requirements, consume 3 meals and 2 nutritious and healthy snacks daily. However, overeating should be avoided and emphasis on consumption of healthy snacks like boiled eggs, bhuna chana, murmura, makhana, nuts, idli, moong dal cheela, sprouts with raw vegetables or sprouted dal parantha with yogurt/chaach etc should be there. Popular snacks can be made nutritious with slight modifications for example, in burgers, aloo tikki can be substituted with home cooked dal/paneer/vegetable tikki etc.

-Regularly consume weekly iron-folic acid supplements with water or lemon water.

- Limit consumption of processed foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar such as samosas, pakodas, cookies, chips, pastries, ice-creams and sweetened
beverages etc. You may be inclined towards eating these foods, especially in the current times; however, mindful eating should be followed.

- Limit salt intake to

- Intake of alcohol, tobacco, smoking and other addictive substances should be avoided.

- Keep yourself hydrated. Daily drink at least 8-10 glasses of water and other fluids such as unsweetened vegetable/fruit juices, lemon water, coconut water etc.

Limit consumption of beverages like tea/coffee and avoid sweetened fruit juices, syrups, fruit concentrates, fizzy and still drinks as they may contain added sugar providing empty calories with no nutrients.

2. Ensure consumption of foods that build immunity

- Consuming a balanced diet is important for enhancing immunity of the body. There are no reports that suggest that any food or supplement will prevent us
from catching COVID-19. Hence, we should not pay attention to such claims. The most effective protection against infections is hand washing regularly,
keeping at least one meter away from others, if that is possible, and wearing a mask if you are infected. These are the most important actions to prevent

However, several foods rich in antioxidant nutrients (Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin A), Iron, Protein, Zinc and Selenium and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty
acids boost immunity. These include:

1) Dark green leafy vegetables amaranth leaves, fenugreek leaves spinach etc
2) Vitamin C rich foods lemon, amaranth leaves, orange, melon, gooseberries, etc.
3) Yellow-orange fruits &vegetables carrot, papaya, mango, etc.
4) Nuts almonds, walnuts, coconut (dry), gingelly seeds, safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, poppy seeds, Niger seeds, mustard seeds etc.)
5) Millets bajra, ragi, jowar etc.
6) Whole pulses and legumes Bengal gram (whole), horse gram (whole), green gram (whole), rajma, soyabean etc.
7) Egg & Non-Veg meats, chicken, fish and egg
8) Milk and milk products milk. curd, paneer
9) Omega 3& 6 fatty acids rich oil safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil etc.
10) Herbs, spices and condiments garlic, ginger, black pepper, turmeric, cloves, basil/tulsi

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3. Stay physically active and get your daily dose of sunlight

-Physical activity is important for bone, muscle, cardio-vascular and lung health. Do at least 60 minutes of indoor physical activity daily such as yoga, stretching exercises, aerobics, dancing etc.
- Expose yourself to sunlight for 30-40 minutes, between 11:00 am to 1:00 pm daily in your balcony/terrace/courtyard/open window, to maintain vitamin D levels in the body. Vitamin D helps in calcium absorption and bone strengthening. It also increases the body’s immunity.
- Make sure to exercise together with family to make it enjoyable and to foster healthy routines.

4. Get adequate sleep and manage stress and anxiety

- Sleep for at least 8-10 hours everyday to ensure body is well rested. Adequate sleep is also known to contribute towards building immunity.
- Have a consistent routine that includes study, rest, exercise and recreational activities daily.
- Develop a timetable and set aside time for recreational activities like playing games, painting, listening to music, reading books etc along with family
- Whenever feeling anxious or stressed spend time practicing some breathing exercises or doing yoga/dance/relaxation exercises/any other physical activity to release stress and stay active.
- Reduce the time spent on mobile, TV, video games etc. and decrease the time you and your family are spending watching or listening to upsetting media
coverage on COVID-19.
- Talk to your parents and clarify all myths related to COVID-19 outbreak.
- Include foods like pulses and legumes, green leafy vegetables, millets, fish, egg, chicken, nuts and oliseeds that are rich in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, folate, iron, zinc, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 which act as mood, anxiety, appetite and sleep regulators.

Also Read| Healthy Diet Crucial To Boost Growth Spurts

5. Ensure personal hygiene

- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at critical times like before and after eating/handling food, before and after using the restroom, after playing with pets, after playing any games, after handling any packaged goods, after you blow your nose or sneeze into a tissue etc.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth and face.
- Do not cough or sneeze into your hands. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of used tissue immediately.
- Keep at least 1 meter distance from people while going out of the house, if it is unavoidable.
- If you are experiencing symptoms like fever, dry cough or difficulty in breathing, immediately inform your parents/guardian or health care provider.

6. Adjust to new routines

- Parents should support adolescents in getting used to online system of school curriculum transaction as it can be overwhelming for them.
- Develop a timetable and maintain normal routine as much as possible.
- Attend classes regularly and complete homework in a timely manner.
- Get adequate rest between online classes, and spend time exercising and doing recreational activities.

7. Stay connected with family/relatives and friends

- Regularly help parents/elders with household chores like cleaning, looking after pets (if any), washing dishes, preparation of accompaniments/salads etc. which can be fun and can break the monotony.
-Speak to elders at home or relatives living in isolation through phone calls or messages to enquire about their physical, mental and psychosocial wellbeing.
- Support parents/elders of the house or relatives in understanding how social media applications work.
- Include all family members in recreational activities like exercising or playing games/recreational activities to relieve stress, spend quality time together and
reduce boredom due to lockdown.
- Maintain regular contact with peers through online modes/phones to check on their health and wellbeing. Some fun and relaxing activities that can be done together are- online recipe making competition/art competitions/youth challenges.

(Courtesy Lady Irwin College/Unicef)