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Representational Image Tribhuvan Tiwari

Healthy Eating Habits For Adolescence Nutrition

POSHAN Abhiyaan also aims to reduce stunting (height-to-age ratio) by 2 per cent each year.

Dr. Vidya Thobbi | Sep 30, 2020

“You reap what you sow” - This famous saying holds true for adolescent nutrition too. Investing in an age of opportunity will break cycles of poor health and low quality of life.

Adolescence is the podium of transition period with increased metabolic demand for growth spurt and development, heightened psychosocial sensitivity. As puberty sets in typically around 10-13y in girls and 11-14y, it’s indeed a rewarding investment to pay heed to the nutrition requirements of each adolescent for the healthy future ahead.The primary focus shift of public health recommendations are related to the prevention of diseases and a healthy life and has been focused always on the adoption of healthy dietary patterns.

However, implementation has been quite challenging. Nutrition needs should be determined by the degree of sexual maturation and biological maturity instead of chronological age. There has been increasing recognition that an individual's diet and environment may impact disease susceptibility by affecting the expression of genes involved in critical metabolic pathways metabolic profile, and environmental factors in order to prevent and treat disease..

Barriers in adolescent nutrition

Globally adolescents constitute about 17% of total population. In India adolescents constitute 20.9% of total population. The rapid emergence of adolescent obesity over the last decade has led to the increasing concern about the diets of adolescents. India's adolescents diet appear to be characterized by over-consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and sugar-sweetened beverages as well as low intakes of fruits and vegetables influenced by changing taste, lack of nutrition-related knowledge, social peer influenced environment, physical stress, school and college studies and curriculum , increased fast food advertisements and establishments.

Role of family, friends and surroundings

As the nutrition gatekeepers parents, family and social environment serves as a primary role. Parental role in adolescent nutrition has been studied in last decades, nearly three- quarters of adolescents enjoyed eating meals at home in the company of their family members. This highlights the importance of home environment in adolescent nutrition.

Role of health care system

Globally adolescent reproductive and sexual health is an area of concern due to many socio cultural and health system related reasons. In India, as part of the National Health Mission (NHM), adolescent reproductive health has been given priority under reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health strategy (RMNCH+A).Since the launch of POSHAN Abhiyaan, it aims to reduce stunting (height-to-age ratio) by 2 per cent each year, under-nutrition by 2 per cent per year, anemia in young children, women and adolescent girls by 3 per cent per year and low birth weight by 2 per cent per year.

How can the nutrition be improved?

Know what’s healthy: Family, peers and environment plays a key role in educating the youths about nutritious food habits. Schools and colleges also play an important role in helping students establish healthy eating behaviors, by providing consistent and accurate messages about good nutrition.

Ways to learn about and practice healthy eating: Nutrition education is a vital part of a comprehensive health education program and empowers children with knowledge and skills to make healthy food.

It's time for purchasing and serving local or regionally produced foods in the school meal programs to increase the nutrition among young and also to encourage community participation. Educating students about agriculture, food, health and nutrition should be encouraged in educational institution. Engaging students in practical involvement through gardening, cooking lessons or farm field trips to be implemented for better results.

Choose and eat healthy-

Emphasis on the nutritional intake of balanced diet especially organic farm foods which should include:

Whole grains: wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain are grain products. Examples include, whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal.

Vegetables: Always recommended to consume variety of vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes, tubers and starchy vegetables.

Fruits: Any kind of fruit should be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut up, or pureed.

Dairy products: Focus mainly on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in calcium

Protein: Advised on choosing low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Vary your protein routine—choose more fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans

Practice healthy -

  • Eat regular meals, with healthy snacks included.
  • Fiber content in the diet to be increased
  • Limit the use of salt.
  • Drink plenty of water to hydrate self well.
  • Avoid drinks that are high in carbs. Fruit juice can have a lot of calories, so limit your teen’s intake. Whole fruit is always a better choice.
  • Eat balanced meals- They must include around 50-60% of total calories from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates, 10-15% from proteins and 20-30% from both visible and invisible fat
  • When cooking try to bake or broil instead of fry.
  • Eat fruit or vegetables for a snack.
  • Limit red meat intake and choose lean cuts when possible.
  • Last but not the least- Exercise and daily physical activity should also be included with a healthy dietary plan

“Eat healthy, Be healthy for yourself, your family and your Nation that awaits healthy you”

(Author is the Chairperson, Food and Drugs Committee, FOGSI (Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India)