Tips for Optimal Health in Teens

Optimal health for teens begins with a core of three regular habits: good nutrition, regular exercise, and quality sleep. Teens do not always make the healthiest choices when it comes to nutrition. They are always on the run! Computer games and television may take priority over exercise. Sleep is often neglected.

Teens need a lot of energy from calories in the foods they eat. Teenagers need a lot of calories per day. These calories need to come from healthy foods. All to often teens tend to eat a steady diet of fast-food, junk food, and added sugars. Instead, think plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and low-fat dairy.

This is the time for growth spurts! Calcium is important to build and maintain strong bones, and teeth. Teens require 1300 milligrams of calcium each day. Stock the refrigerator with individual cartons of low-fat milk, cheese slices, and single serve yogurt for snacking on the go. Add dairy to smoothies, granolas, or as a dessert served with fresh summer berries. The probiotics in yogurt are also good for gut health, and like other low-fat dairy products, a healthy source of protein.

For teens with dairy intolerances, turn to soy products, including calcium fortified soy milk, soy yogurt, and tofu. Greens are also a source of calcium. Add dark leafy greens to salads or stir fries, along with broccoli.

Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium. Teens ages 15-19 need 15 micrograms of vitamin D per day. Natural sources of vitamin D include eggs, tuna, salmon, and sardines. It is also included in fortified breakfast cereals, milk, and orange juice. These foods make for a hearty breakfast to start each morning with. Hard boiled refrigerated eggs make a quick snack. Try fish for dinner—a little more often!

Iron is important for healthy red blood cells. Oxygen travels through these cells to help give us energy. Fatigue can be a sign of low iron. It is particularly important for teenaged girls, as iron is depleted through menstruation. This can lead to anemia.
Iron is abundant in chicken, turkey, halibut, tuna, and beef. Legumes are an excellent source of iron. Cooked lentils provide 6.6 milligrams of iron per cup, red or white kidney beans 4.4-6.6 milligrams, and chickpeas provide 4.6-5.2 milligrams. Grilled Black Bean Burgers on the BBQ sound delicious! See our delicious recipe below. Invite your teens into the kitchen for a family cooking hour!

Vegetable rich sources of iron include leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard. Iron is absorbed in conjunction with vitamin C. Try mixing up a green salad with some red, vitamin C bursting summer strawberries. Add a few slices of sweet yellow pepper for good measure!

Vitamin C is also essential for collagen production, and the development of ligament and tissues to support bones. While 65 milligrams of vitamin C is the daily requirement for teenaged girls, boys need 75 milligrams. Other rich sources include citrus fruits and kiwis.

Parents who love our Aarja Health Products reach for supplements to ensure teens received the vitamins and minerals they need. Two top products include Calcium D3 + K with wild Nordic Bilberries and Vitamin C 500 with Zinc & Chaga.

Regular exercise needs to be part of every teen’s life. Many teens are active in team sports, or dance classes during the school year, and less active during breaks. Incorporate fitness into family days. This is the time of year to enjoy the beautiful weather and longer days. Take hikes together. Explore the countryside on your bicycles. Teens need to aim for 60 minutes of exercise every day.

Sleep is another important element of teen health. Most teens need an average of 9 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night. Establish some lights out rules.

Healthy habits formed in the teen years help to promote healthy habits as an adult.

Grilled Black Bean Burgers

Makes 6 burgers

90 grams large oatmeal flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ large onion, diced fine
2 (14-ounce cans) black beans, drained, washed, and dried
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup sliced green onion
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons BBQ sauce

To Garnish:

Slices of your favourite cheese such as Jarlsberg, Swiss, or American Cheddar
Serve with lettuce, tomato, condiments of your choice and buns (optional)

1. In a food processor pulse oatmeal flakes into a powder.
2. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil.
3. Add onions and peppers. Heat until the onions are translucent about 5 -7 minutes.
4. Allow to cool slightly, then add to food processor.
5. Toss in 3/4 of the black beans. Add spices, eggs, salt, and pepper.
6. Pulse until the mixture comes together. Turn into a bowl.
7. Stir in the green onions, basil, thyme, and the rest of the whole black beans.
8. Form into 6 patties.
9. Grill patties over medium high heat, placed on greased aluminum foil, for about 6 minutes.
10. Add cheese during the last stages of cooking.
11. Serve with or without a bun, adding toppings of your choice.