The right diet is the foundation of good health and well-being, says TV nutritionist Gillian McKeith (right). Here she guides us through the four key stages of life — from puberty through to postmenopause — explaining what we need to eat at each to stay happy and healthy.
THE TRANSITION YEARS
Puberty, which usually happens in girls between the ages of ten and 16, is an exciting time of transition. You’re becoming a woman – vibrant, intelligent, full of life, ideas and enthusiasm.
There’s no denying that it can be easy to fall into less positive habits as a teen, whether it’s poor eating, giving up on exercise, letting your moods rule you or falling prey to peer pressure and addictive behaviours that you’ll later regret. While we’re all born with certain traits or genetic susceptibilities, we can also make choices to give ourselves the best possible future. The food habits you get into now will lay down the foundations for the future health of your body. I’m talking skin, bones, reproductive health and organ development. These are things which may not be in the forefront of your mind as a teenager, but good habits now will reap rewards over a lifetime.
SIX TOP FOODS
The omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are so called because they are vital for cardiovascular, hormone, skin, nail and hair health, energy and brain function. They are found in oily fish, shelled hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and walnuts, as well as the cold-pressed oils of these nuts and seeds. Eat them every day.
Fruit and veg
Eat five to eight portions a day, including plenty of green stuff. Your five a day should be a bare minimum. A diet high in fruit and vegetables will make you less susceptible to many diseases, because they’re bursting with vitamins, minerals,fibre and antioxidants (which offer protection against many conditions of ageing).
Have some vegetarian meals each week – animal protein in excess increases your risk of developing many illnesses later on. I am not saying that you should not eat meat, but do vary your diet. Make sure your veggie meals contain protein, so include beans, pulses, quinoa, soya, eggs or cheese.
Choose these rather than white, refined foods – they are much richer in fibre and nutrients. Fibre is important for hormone health, digestive health, blood-sugar balance and cardiovascular health, and it makes you feel fuller, so you’re less likely to overeat.
Drink six to eight glasses of water or herbal tea a day – hydration is important for all aspects of health, both now and in the future. This is a good habit to get into.
One study found that a mild iron deficiency can result when menstruation kicks in if your diet is poor. Foods rich in iron include meat, eggs, fish, poultry, almonds, figs, parsley, watercress, broccoli, kale, oats, lentils, millet, rye and prunes. A good iron-rich breakfast would be porridge with prunes and berries.
THE BIG BREAKFAST
Breakfast each day is vital. It boosts thinking power and helps to maintain body weight. Here are some ideas.
* Porridge with shelled hemp seeds, flax seeds or cinnamon.
* Breakfast smoothie made with fruits, avocado, flax oil and soya milk (optional).
* Rye toast with nut butter – try cashew nut or almond butter instead of peanut butter.
* Natural yoghurt with nuts and seeds.
* Sugar-free muesli with rice milk, almond milk or goat’s milk.
* Omelette with plenty of your favourite fresh or dried herbs.
* Fruit salad, which should be followed by one of the other options above.
A WEIGHT OFF YOUR MIND
When it comes to health, the thing most teenage girls worry about is weight. But if I could persuade you to think about health rather than fat, you wouldn’t have to give your weight a second thought – it would take care of itself naturally.
It’s normal for teenage girls to gain some weight – puberty is a period of growth and development. What you need is plenty of nutritious food to grow into your natural body weight. What you should not do is eat too much nutrient-poor junk food, or try to keep your weight down by following crash diets or faddy eating plans. Here are my tips for a healthy body image.
* Educate yourself. Instead of reading about the latest ‘wonder diet’, read up on healthy foods, how to cook and healthy living.
* Forget faddy diets, calorie counting or obsessively weighing yourself. If you eat healthily your body will reward you.
* Learn to cook – experiment with different recipes and foods, cook for family and friends and make eating an enjoyable part of life.
* Avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates, junk foods, caffeine and alcohol, which are just empty calories.
* Aim to eat small, regular meals and snacks throughout the day – three main meals and three small snacks is ideal. This will keep blood-sugar levels balanced and reduce energy slumps, cravings and overeating. By Gillian Mckeith, The Daily Mail