Adolescent Nutrition Choices – Becoming Independent Eaters

Adolescent nutrition choices present a time of independent decision making for the teen as they head toward adulthood with less and less influence from their parents and more influence from their peers and others, which also includes food choices.

Nutrition Choices of Adolescents

The problem arises when adolescents begin making their own food choices some of which are nutritionally very bad ones involving personal likes and dislikes and convenience. Of course adolescents are now at an age where they should make their own choices and even prepare their own food as part of their growing independence and preparation for adulthood, and whether they eat at home or not adolescents at the teenage age years often have their own money either from an allowance or a part-time job, their own transportation and the influence of their peers, this is a time where the influence of their parents is weaker than it has ever been.

Because of this increased independence and discretionary income that many adolescents have advertisers often go after this group marketing to them extensively. Young people in this age group have more food choices than ever before both in stores, fast food restaurants and at school where vending machines full of unhealthy but convenient items are available. These choices are often low nutrient density choices such as snacks and soft drinks which are extremely popular among adolescents.

When young people do make more healthy choices such as water, juice, low-fat milk, granola bars, pretzels and fruits and vegetables to snack on, and then they benefit from enhanced mental and physical performance, increased energy and psychological well-being.

Therefore the need by those marketing to this impressionable age group should be to market healthy eating and a focus on good adolescent nutrition since this group is often preoccupied with weight, appearance and eating habits and adolescents do need to realize how their eating habits can affect them as they move toward adulthood.

Nutrition Related Concerns That Affect Adolescents

Adolescents often participate in sports and become more preoccupied with their athletic performance rather than with their nutritional health, not realizing that the very performance they seek to improve is being jeopardized through poor nutritional habits.

Adolescents often develop acne during their teen years and blame certain foods on their development of this skin disorder which are generally based more on myth than on reality.

Acne is actually caused by the elevated hormones of adolescence which stimulate the sebaceous glands, glands that are attached to hair follicles, to produce greater amounts of sebum—an oily substance. An acne breakout which can be a whitehead, blackhead or pimple occurs when a hair follicle becomes plugged with the sebum and dead cells. Acne generally lasts until the adolescent is in the early 20s and there are various dermatological treatments that have nothing to do with diet. But, it is thought that a diet low in refined carbohydrates and high in fruits, vegetables, and lean cuts of meat can help the acne.

There is a preoccupation of adolescents with their weight and personal appearance, particularly among girls which can lead to eating disorders; however, more and more boys are becoming victims of eating disorders as well and because of the emotional roller coaster many adolescents are on during these years, the threat of eating disorders among this age group should not be ignored by parents who should monitor adolescent nutrition choices for appropriateness.

Obesity among adolescents is climbing at a dangerous rate, with one factor being the decline in physically active teens with many school gym programs having been cut or eliminated. Obesity among adolescents can leave young people vulnerable to an increased risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal glucose tolerance and metabolic syndrome. These young people are also at a vulnerable emotional stage as well and can suffer from psychological problems as a result of teasing, such as low self-esteem. This is a dangerous time for adolescents because these young people are approaching adulthood and can enter adulthood obese with a host of obesity related chronic problems and as they reach adulthood and body functions slow down due to aging, if good adolescent nutrition choices is not being practiced then new chronic adult onset problems can compound an already bad health situation.

Adolescence is a time of experimentation and many young people begin experimenting with substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, prescription and illegal drugs and being young they don’t focus on the health and adolescent nutrition choices consequences of picking up such bad habits.

Smoking cigarettes results in a lower energy intake and a decreased nutrient intake. Smoking drugs such as marijuana causes the increased desire to snack and munch but with an intake of snacks high in calories but with low nutrient density.

Drinking alcohol results in replacing empty alcohol calories with nutrients that are needed by adolescents and this age group is often involved in binge drinking and are at greater risk of harming themselves or others through violence. In addition, alcohol interferes with the absorption and metabolism of essential nutrients in those that cannot afford to have nutrients replaced or poorly absorbed during growth.

The use of other drugs such as cocaine, result in the preoccupation with both the acquisition, and use of these drugs and even taking priority over food selection or consumption resulting in young people who are underweight and who have poor appetites.

These are all concerns related to the growth and development of adolescents that should not be ignored by adults to the detriment of the adolescent. Making poor adolescent nutrition choices can have health consequences on into adulthood that may shorten the life of the individual.

For information on adolescent nutrition choices click on the link to


• Adult Nutrition

For other information on nutrition including adolescent nutrition choices some great references are:

• Nutrition – Fourth Edition by Paul Insel, Don Ross, Kimberley McMahon, and Melissa Bernstein

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