With growth and physical changes, youngsters slowly become more independent as they grow. Dietary options are one of the first decisions they start making on their own. However, they often tend to make poor food choices. Overall, they tend to slip on meeting their daily-recommended amounts of balanced nutrition through their meals. This balance would include adequate amount of carbohydrates (complex and simple), good quality proteins, healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals with proper dietary fibre and water intake. In fact, young people often have an increased intake of highly processed foods and drinks that are high in sugar, sodium and saturated fats.
Making things even more challenging is the significant decline in physical activity. The extended lockdowns over the last year and a half of the global COVID-19 pandemic that have forced a new culture that includes prolonged virtual sessions leading to lengthened periods of sitting and sedentary behaviour; less indoor space; and also a general cultural void when it comes to physical activity and fitness. Because of this, vulnerability related to metabolic and chronic issues that include obesity, early onset of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia and many more, has obviously grown.
But there is a silver lining. Many young people want to be healthier, it is just that they do not know where to start. For this, the first step is to figure out areas for improvement. A proper analysis works best with the help of a health care professional. Till then, ditch chronic dieting, food guilt and meal skipping. In addition, one should be committed to making healthy changes starting today.
Small Steps to Build Healthier Youth
The biggest motivation towards healthy change is the inner discomfort due to higher weight or chronic health problems. Small changes make a big difference for achieving a healthier lifestyle. Lasting changes rarely take place overnight. Focus on daily choices to move toward a healthier you. A few small steps can be:
- A balanced diet: Skip on all the FAD diets. Go natural as much as possible with whole grains; nuts – oil seeds; all seasonal fruits and vegetables; organic milk and milk products; lean meat and chicken; eggs and fish. An adequate proportion of all food groups is a must in your diet.
- Choose your snacks wisely: roasted Bengal gram; puffed barley or jowar; Hummus spread; no-oil baked soya sticks; sautéed vegetables; fruit salad or smoothies and many more are best to include as a snack option. These are not only satisfying in dealing with hunger pangs that crop up in between meals but are also healthy.
- Track your food intake: Consuming extra calories can lead to weight gain over the course of a year. One should keep a track on actual calorie requirement based on one’s physical activity and current weight. Just by controlling your portions you can ensure meeting your requirement through every bite.
- Stay active: A walk for 30–60 minutes or 30 minutes strength training or jogging is must. You can even go for power yoga sessions so that you can build your stamina and immunity.
- Frequent and smaller meals: Be particular about your meal timing with small portions consumed frequently, for better metabolic functioning.
- Prepare food at home. Home-cooked meals are often lower in calories and have more variety than restaurant meals or packaged meals, so eat home-made food whenever possible. In case of non-availability of home cooked food, check on food labels wisely and make intelligent and healthy choices when you order food or eat out.
- Understanding food labels: Check on the content of packaged foods based on your body type and acceptance. Always count calories in accordance with serving size. Study the quality of nutrition content and sources used in the food. Focus on getting more fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium. When choosing a food, 10% of these individual nutrients is good, while 20% or more is excellent.