01.04.2008

Teen Cuisine

Super food is even more needed in those teenage years, says Naturopath Jeremy Hill.

Super food is even more needed in those teenage years,says Naturopath Jeremy Hill.

Apart from some increased energy needs and a greaterdemand at times for specific nutrients, such as magnesiumand calcium, to support muscle and skeletal growth anddevelopment, the dietary demands for the average adolescentare not too different from those of the average adult.Unfortunately, the average adolescent's diet tends tobe worse than everyone else's.

At an age where expectations can be high and extralevels of academic, physical and personal responsibilityare placed on these rapidly morphing individuals, theirtendency to experiment and rebel can lead to some lessthan ideal life directing choices.

Life does just happen - but to make it a great one,a bit more planning and plenty of hard work are required.Adolescence tends to be complicated by high pressuresituations such as school and university exams, learningto drive, first jobs and developing a rampant sociallife. So the last thing a finely tuned machine suchas the teenage human body needs when in such situationsis to be fed rubbish, and yet that is exactly what somany teens seem to be doing.

Ideally, they would be feeding their hungry bodiesand minds well each day by downing meals such as a plateof fresh, pan fried salmon, with basil, cracked pepperand a drizzle of lemon juice, with a side of broccoli,red cabbage, mushrooms and black beans, sauted in oliveoil garlic and ginger, served with a few sweet potatowedges rolled in turmeric, baked and covered with agood dollop of natural yoghurt, later to be followedwith a refreshing cup of green tea... Instead, so manyinform me they will often just grab a burger and chipson the run, with a thick shake or soft drink.

Despite the "2 fruit and 5 veg" public nutritioneducation program having been the most successful ofits kind in Australia, many adults and children willstill go days without eating either. The invinciblefeeling that comes with the hormonally charged teenageyears can leave you forgetting to look after yourselfand thus failing to get the most out of now, let alonepreventing looming future health problems. Osteoporosisis a good example of the window of opportunity closing- the best days for laying down quality doses of calciumfrom dairy, nuts, seeds and vegetables rapidly disappearas the teenage skeleton begins to reach maturity.

So, for those teens who are keen to step up to whatis probably the most important role you will ever have- feeding yourselves well - congratulations! You willbe smarter, happier and healthier for such a responsibledecision. Let's make sure you do it right.

For starters, you should aim to include a wide varietyof healthy food choices from a diverse range of meats,legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, whole grains, fruitsand vegetables. This approach goes a long way towardsmeeting your nutritional needs, while keeping life interestingwith a wide variety of colours, flavours and textures.

For an age group who often try so hard to be different,it is important to recognise that good health does notrequire fanaticism. You don't have to go on a raw fooddiet (cooking increases disease-fighting antioxidantlevels), or give up meats (terrific sources of manyfatigue-fighting nutrients and protein for muscle development)to be healthy.

With diabetes running rampant throughout Australiansthese days and the diagnosis being made at an increasinglyyounger age, it is also well worth your while to eatpreventatively, nice and early.

Get to know a bit about the Glycemic Index rating systemwhich indicates whether a carbohydrate-based food islikely to have a damaging effect upon your blood sugarlevel. Based upon glucose which is given a reading of100, the GI scale allows you to make choices betweenfoods such as white potato with a GI of 88 and sweetpotato with a healthy GI of 44.

So, for those who are used to pulling on the feedbagat "Mum's Diner" or ducking into one of themany quality take-out joints that have sprung up foryour convenience, learning to cook may seem a littledaunting. But even the most time pressed, kitchenphobecan get by with an impressive and delicious varietysimply by mastering a very small handful of recipes.I personally love stir fries and curries and can cookthem a thousand different nutritious ways.

So for the busy teens who are now starting to feedthemselves, start putting together a shopping list fullof nutritional star performers and get ready to preparethree good meals a day. A diet full of Super Foods willtake you a lot further than fast foods on so many levels.

Good Health, Jeremy Hill.

Jeremy Hill (Diploma of Natural Therapy) is a QualifiedNaturopath.

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