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by Mindy
 Age 14

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Nutrition and healthy eating are not the foremost concern for most girls. How many millions of teens eat at McDonald's every night, drink soda as their only beverage, have a sugary cereal, or just skip breakfast altogether, and usually don't have any fruits or vegetables at all? Some of the long-term effects of these poor nutrition habits are:
  • greater risk for heart disease
  • increased risk for certain cancers
  • weakened immune system
  • weight gain
  • osteoporosis, the list goes on and on.

Why would anyone willingly subject themselves and their bodies to this after getting all the information? One reason is because they don't get this information. The food industry spends billions of dollars a year to get us, the consumers to buy their products. We get a lot of mixed messages. Teenage girls have to learn not to listen to advertising, but to eat foods that are good for them and that will keep them healthy.   Nutrition graphic
     "Nutrition" by Mindy, Age 14
What you eat now has a tremendous impact on your health in the years to come. This list has been compiled in the hopes that teenage girls will realize that and decide to do something about it.

Guidelines for Healthy Eating

spacerMeat, Fish, Peanut Butter, and Eggs

  Servings per day: 2-3
Serving size:
  • For Meat and Fish - About the size of a deck of cards, or 3 oz.
  • For Reduced Fat and Natural Peanut Butter - 2 tbsp. Regular peanut butter contains hydrogenated fat to give it a longer shelf life. This type of fat can raise your cholesterol.
  • For Eggs - Too many eggs can also raise your cholesterol to unhealthy levels. However, 3-4 egg yolks a week can be eaten without any problems. Egg whites are not limited because they don't contain the levels of cholesterol that the yolks do.

spacerFruits and Vegetables
  Servings per day: 5 or more. Fruits and vegetables significantly reduce your likelihood of getting cancer, heart disease, and other devastating illnesses later in life. They boost the immune system so that you're less likely to get sick now, and they have in them antioxidants that can also help prevent many different types of cancer. There is no limit to how many you can eat (12 a day is an excellent number!) but the minimum you should have is five.

Serving size:

  • 1 medium piece of fruit or
  • 1/2 cup fruit or vegetable juices. When you drink juice that comes in packages or containers, check the label to see how much real juice it contains. If your label says "5% Fruit Juice" then 95% of what you're drinking is sugar and water. If you have a juice box that is filled with a cup of liquid and it says 5% Fruit Juice then you will have to drink 10 juice boxes to get the equivalent of one serving of fruit. When at all possible, try to drink 100% juice.
  • 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables.
  • Olives, avocados, and coconut are counted as fats because of their fat and calorie content.
  • Starchy vegetables, like potatoes, are grouped with Breads, Cereals, and Pasta because they are more similar to those foods than to fruits and vegetables in terms of calorie content.
  • Most vegetables, and especially fruit, are better for you and have more vitamins if they're eaten raw. Carrots are an exception. Cooked, your body is able to digest them better and get more nutritional value out of them. Raw carrots are still very healthy, though, and they're an excellent source of Vitamin A.
  • Blueberries are the healthiest fruit; they have more antioxidants than any other. Strawberries come next, with 40% less than blueberries.
  • Make sure you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to get all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
  • Orange juice is rich in Vitamin C, broccoli and spinach are excellent sources of Folic Acid, carrots are a great source of Vitamin A, and so on.

spacerDairy Products
  Servings per day: 2 or more for adults over 24 years and children 2-10 years. 3-4 for ages 11-24.

It is especially important that young women get enough dairy products at this age because of our risk for osteoporosis. In this period of development it is crucial that we get enough calcium for our growing bones. Even if you think you've stopped growing, you still need calcium to keep your bones healthy.

Serving Size:

  • 1 cup skim, 1/2% or 1% milk
  • 1 cup nonfat or low-fat yogurt
  • 1 oz. low-fat cheese or 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup non-fat or low-fat frozen yogurt (no more than 3 grams of fat per 1/2 cup of frozen yogurt)
  • What if I don't like the way milk tastes?
    You still need calcium. Try chocolate, or strawberry, or banana flavored milk, or low fat cheeses. Or invent your own skim-milk smoothies using strawberries, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, low-fat or non-fat flavored or plain yogurt, chocolate, vanilla, coffee, or any other flavor you like of low-fat or non-fat frozen yogurt.

spacerBreads, Pasta, and Cereal
  Servings per day: 6-11 depending on your size, height, age, body type, and daily calorie consumption. (For instance, if you're 5'11, weigh 165 lbs., 17 years old, on the softball, girls' hockey, basketball, soccer, and fencing teams, have a really high metabolism, and lift weights everyday, you might consume 11 servings from the bread, pasta, and cereal group, whereas a girl who is 12, 5'2, weighs 125 lbs., and doesn't do an extreme amount of physical activity, but goes jogging every day, might only consume 6 or 7 servings.)

Serving size:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup hot cereal
  • 1 cup flaked cereal
  • 1 cup cooked rice or pasta
  • 1/2 cup starchy vegetables
  • 1 cup low-fat soup

spacerFats, Oils, Sweets, and Desserts
  Servings per day: I'm sure you all remember this from the top of the food pyramid-"Use Sparingly". It's true. Too much fat and cholesterol are bad for you. But. Your body needs some fat to function properly. There are three different kinds of fat in the foods we eat, saturated fat (the bad one), monounsaturated fat (the good one), and polyunsaturated fat (the great one). Most food labels only list saturated and unsaturated fat, they don't differentiate between poly- and mono-. However, on many health food labels they do show everything. If you come across a label that does show it, or if that type of label becomes more widespread look for:
  • The fat that there's the least of should be saturated.
  • The fat that there's the most of should be polyunsaturated. In studies, this type of fat has actually been shown to lower cholesterol.

And, finally, a piece of good news. Chocolate is good for you. Studies have shown that it has an antioxidant in it similar to the one found in wine, which is why, if you're an adult, wine drunk in moderation can be good for you (If you're not over 21 any alcohol can harm your still-developing body). Chocolate still has a lot of fat though, so the recommended serving size is 2 oz. three times a month. And, even though chocolate is fattening they've found that people who have it as much as four times a week still live longer than people who never eat it do. Now that's food for thought.