Parents can help teens make healthy food choices this summer by strategically stocking the pantry

A steady diet of junk food can be especially harmful to teens, who tend to experience a growth spurt during these years, and these poor nutritional choices as teens can affect their health in years to come, reports Newswise, a research-reporting service.

“While it’s important to eat healthy at every age and stage, the growth and physical maturation occurring during adolescence makes good nutrition all the more critical,” Kristen Kizer, a clinical dietician with Houston Methodist Wellness Services, said in the release. “Teens are growing, meaning that their cells are diving rapidly. This means increased calorie and protein needs, as well as increased need for vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin D, iron, and folate.”

So, as parents stock their refrigerators and pantries for the summer, it is important for you to remember to include healthy foods that are quick, easy and tasty to teens, while paying special attention to providing foods high in calcium and vitamin D.

Calcium and vitamin D intake should be of particular importance for teens because about half of peak bone mass occurs during the teen years, Kizer explains in the release. If teens don’t get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, they can become adults with poor bone density, setting themselves up for osteoporosis and bone fractures in later years.

The National Institute of Health says teenagers need 1,300 milligrams of calcium each day. offers a list of foods that are high in calcium that includes dairy products, veggies including broccoli and dark green, leafy vegetables, soy products, calcium-fortified foods, beans and canned fish.

Parents and teens should also remember that good eating habits and a healthy weight are important to establish during the teen years because approximately 90 percent of overweight and obese teens will remain overweight or obese as adults, Newswise reports.

“Most teens aren’t thinking about chronic disease 30 years down the road, reminding them that the foods they choose now have an impact on their appearance, athletic performance, or academics can help them make healthier choices,” Kizer says in the release. “Girls especially may be struggling with body image issues, so helping them select foods that will make them physically feel well can also improve their mood and emotional health.”

Kizer’s suggestions for healthy food choices:

  • Guacamole, made from a jar of salsa and avocados, and baby carrots. The vitamin C in the salsa will keep the guacamole from turning brown and the healthy monounsaturated fat from the avocado will keep your hungry teens satisfied.
  • Whole wheat rotini and veggies and pasta sauce, all mixed together and ready to heat. This meal provides fiber, magnesium, manganese and selenium.
  • Greek yogurt with fruit. The added protein from the Greek yogurt will keep your hungry teen full and he or she will also be getting fiber from the fruit, as well as vitamin C, potassium, folic acid, and calcium.
  • Cereal. Look for cereals that include no more than 6 grams of sugar.
  • Baked chips instead of full-fat chips.
  • Low-fat ice-cream sandwiches or 100 percent frozen fruit bars.
  • Whole-wheat thin crust pizza that features veggies rather than high-fat meat like sausage and pepperoni.

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