Does your life move at a
You may feel stressed from school, after-school activities,
peer pressure, and family relationships. Your busy schedule may
lead you to skip breakfast, buy lunch from vending machines, and
grab whatever is in the refrigerator for dinner when you get
Where is the time to
think about your health?
Yet healthy behaviors, like nutritious eating
and regular physical activity, may help you meet the
challenges of your life. In fact, healthy eating and regular
exercise may help you feel energized, learn better, and stay
alert in class. These healthy habits may also lower your
risk for diseases such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease,
and some forms of cancer.
Did you know?
- From 2003 to 2004, approximately
17.4 percent of U.S. teens between the ages of
12 and 19 were overweight.
- Overweight children and teens are at high
risk for developing serious diseases. Type 2
diabetes and heart disease were considered adult
but they are now being reported in children and
not the answer.
The best way to lose weight is to eat healthfully
and be physically active. It is a good idea to talk
with your health care provider if you want to lose
Many teens turn to unhealthy dieting methods to lose
weight, including eating very little, cutting out
whole groups of foods (like grain products),
skipping meals, and fasting. These methods can leave
out important foods you need to grow. Other
weight-loss tactics such as smoking, self-induced
vomiting, or using diet pills or laxatives can lead
to health problems.
In fact, unhealthy dieting can actually cause you
to gain more weight because it often leads to a
cycle of eating very little, then overeating or
binge eating. Also, unhealthy dieting can put you at
greater risk for growth and emotional
This booklet is designed to help you take small
and simple steps to keep a healthy weight. It gives
you basic facts about nutrition and physical
activity, and offers practical tools that you can
use in your everyday life, from reading food labels
and selecting how much and what foods to eat, to
replacing TV time with physical activities.
Eating healthfully means getting the right
balance of nutrients your body needs to perform
every day. You can find out more about your
nutritional needs by checking out the 2005
Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Published by the U.S.
Government, this publication explains how much of
each type of food you should eat, along with great
information on nutrition and physical activity. The
guidelines suggest the number of calories you should
eat daily based on your gender, age, and activity
According to the guidelines, a healthy eating plan
- fruits and vegetables
- fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and
- whole grains
In addition, a healthy diet is low in saturated
and trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.
When it comes to food portions, the Dietary
Guidelines use the word "servings" to describe a
standard amount of food. Serving sizes are measured
as "ounce-" or "cup-equivalents." Listed below are
some tips based on the guidelines that can help you
develop healthy eating habits for a lifetime.
Eat fruits and vegetables
When consumed as part of a
well-balanced and nutritious eating plan, fruits and
vegetables can help keep you healthy.
You may get your servings from
fresh, frozen, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables.
Teenagers who are consuming 2,000 calories per day should
aim for 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every
day. You may need fewer or more servings depending on your individual calorie needs, which your health care provider
can help you determine.
Count your calcium.|
Calcium helps strengthen
bones and teeth. This nutrient is very important,
since getting enough calcium now can reduce the risk
for broken bones later in life. Yet most teens get
less than the recommended 1,200 mg of calcium per
day. Aim for at least three 1 cup-equivalents of
low-fat or fat-free calcium-rich foods and beverages
Power up with protein.
Protein builds and repairs
body tissue like muscles and organs. Eating enough protein
can help you grow strong and sustain your energy levels.
Teens need five and one-half 1 ounce-equivalents of
protein-rich foods each day.
Go whole grain.|
Grain foods help give you
energy. Whole-grain foods like whole-wheat bread,
brown rice, and oatmeal usually have more nutrients
than refined grain products. They give you a feeling
of fullness and add bulk to your diet.
Try to get six 1
ounce-equivalents of grains every day, with at least
three 1 ounce-equivalents coming from whole-grain
Know your fats.
Fat is also an important
nutrient. It helps your body grow and develop, and
it is a source of energy as well--it even keeps your
skin and hair healthy. But be aware that some fats
are better for you than others. Limit your fat
intake to 25 to 35 percent of your total calories
Unsaturated fat can be
part of a healthy diet--as long as you do not eat
too much since it is still high in calories. Good
- olive, canola,
corn, and soybean oils
- fish like salmon,
trout, tuna, and whitefish
- nuts like
walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and cashews
Limit saturated fat,
which can clog your arteries and raise your risk for
heart disease. Saturated fat is found primarily in
animal products and in a few plant oils like:
- full-fat cheese
- whole milk
- fatty meats
- coconut, palm,
Limit trans fat, which
is also bad for your heart. Trans fat is often found
- baked goods like
cookies, muffins, and doughnuts
- snack foods like
crackers and chips
- stick margarine
- fried foods
Look for words like
"shortening," "partially hydrogenated vegetable
oil," or "hydrogenated vegetable oil" in the list of
ingredients. These ingredients tell you that the
food contains trans fat. Packaged food
products are required to list trans fat on
their Nutrition Facts.
Replenish your body with iron.|
Teen boys need iron to
support their rapid growth--most boys double their
lean body mass between the ages of 10 and 17. Teen
girls also need iron to support growth and replace
blood lost during menstruation.
To get the iron you
need, try eating these foods:
- fish and
- lean beef
- enriched and
- cooked dried
beans and peas like black beans, kidney beans,
black-eyed peas, and chickpeas/garbanzo beans
Control your food portions.
The portion sizes that you get
away from home at a restaurant, grocery store, or school
event may contain more food than you need to eat in one
sitting. Research shows that when people are served more
food, they eat more food. So, how can you control your food
Try these tips:
Read food labels.
- When eating out, share
your meal, order a half-portion, or order an appetizer
as a main meal. Be aware that some appetizers
are larger than others and can have as many calories as
- Take at least half of
your meal home.
- When eating at home, take
one serving out of a package (read the Nutrition Facts
to find out how big a serving is) and eat it off a plate
instead of eating straight out of a box or bag.
- Avoid eating in front of
the TV or while you are busy with other activities. It
is easy to lose track of how much you are eating
if you eat while doing other things.
- Eat slowly so your brain
can get the message that your stomach is full.
- Do not skip meals.
Skipping meals may lead you to eat more high-calorie,
high-fat foods at your next meal or snack. Eat breakfast
When you read a food
label, pay special attention to:
- Serving Size.
Check the amount of food in a serving. Do you
eat more or less? The "servings per container"
line tells you the number of servings in the
- Calories and
Other Nutrients. Remember, the number of
calories and other listed nutrients are for one
serving only. Food packages often contain more
than one serving.
- Percent Daily
Value. Look at how much of the recommended
daily amount of a nutrient (% DV) is in one
serving of food--5-percent DV or less is low and
20-percent DV or more is high. For example, if
your breakfast cereal has 25-percent DV for
iron, it is high in iron.
Plan meals and snacks.
You and your family have busy
schedules, which can make eating healthfully a challenge.
Planning ahead can help. Think about the meals and snacks
you would like for the week--including bag lunches to take
to school--and help your family make a shopping list. You
may even want to go grocery shopping and cook together.
Jumpstart your day with breakfast.
Did you know that eating
breakfast can help you do better in school? By eating
breakfast you can increase your attention span and memory,
have more energy, and feel less irritable and restless. A
breakfast that is part of a healthy diet can also help you
maintain an appropriate weight now and in the future.
Bag it! Pack your lunch.
Whether you eat lunch from school or pack your own, this
meal should provide you with one-third of the day's
nutritional needs. A lunch of chips, cookies, candy, or soda
just gives you lots of calories, but not many nutrients.
Instead of buying snacks from vending machines at school,
bring food from home. Try packing your lunch with a lean
turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread, healthy foods like
fruits, vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and nuts.
A healthy snack can contribute
to a healthy eating plan and give you the energy boost you
need to get through the day. Try these snack ideas, but keep
in mind that most of these foods should be eaten in small
- fruit--any kind--fresh,
canned, dried, or frozen
- peanut butter on rice
cakes or whole-wheat crackers
- baked potato chips or
tortilla chips with salsa
- veggies with low-fat dip
- string cheese, low-fat
cottage cheese, or low-fat yogurt
- frozen fruit bars, fruit
sorbet, or low-fat frozen yogurt
- vanilla wafers, graham
crackers, animal crackers, or fig bars
- popcorn (air popped or low-fat microwave)
Eat dinner with your family.|
For many teens, dinner
consists of eating on the run, snacking in front of
the TV, or nonstop munching from after school to
bedtime. Try to eat dinner as a family instead.
Believe it or not, when you eat with your family you
are more likely to get more fruits, vegetables, and
other foods with the vitamins and minerals your body
meals also help you reconnect after a busy day. Talk
to your family about fitting in at least a few meals
together throughout the week.
Limit fast food
and choose wisely.
Like many teens, you may
eat at fast food restaurants often. If so, you are
probably taking in a lot of extra calories from
added sugar and fat. Just one value-sized fast food
meal of a sandwich, fries, and sweetened soda can
have more calories, fat, and added sugar than anyone
should eat in an entire day.
The best approach is
to limit the amount of fast food you eat. If you do
order fast food, try these tips:
- Skip "value-sized"
or "super-sized" meals.
- Choose a grilled chicken
sandwich or a plain, small burger.
- Use mustard
instead of mayonnaise.
- Limit fried foods
or remove breading from fried chicken, which can
cut half the fat.
- Order garden or
grilled chicken salads with light or
- Choose water,
fat-free, or low-fat milk instead of sweetened
Rethink your drinks.
Soda and other sugary drinks
have replaced milk and water as the drinks of choice for
teens and adults alike. Yet these drinks are actually more
like desserts because they are high in added sugar and
calories. In fact, soda and sugar-laden drinks may
contribute to weight problems in kids and teens. Try
sticking to water, low-fat milk, or fat-free milk.
Like eating well, physical
activity may help you feel good. Being physically active
- Help you control your
weight, build lean muscle, and reduce your body fat.
- Strengthen your bones.
- Increase flexibility and
- Reduce your risk for
chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease,
and high blood pressure.
Physical activity also has
possible emotional and social benefits, including:
- Improving your
self-esteem and mood.
- Decreasing feelings of
anxiety and depression.
- Helping you do better in
- Improving your teamwork
skills through sports.
Be active every day.
Physical activity should be
part of your daily life, whether you play sports, take P.E.
or other exercise classes, or even get from place to place
by walking or bicycling. Teens should be physically active
for 60 minutes or more on most, preferably all, days of the
Turn off the TV and get moving!
Can too much TV
contribute to weight problems? Several research
studies say yes. In fact, one study noted that boys
and girls who watched the most TV had more body fat
than those who watched TV less than 2 hours a day.
Try to cut back on your TV, computer,
and video game time and get moving instead. Here are
some tips to help you break the TV habit.
- Tape your
favorite shows and watch them later. This cuts
down on TV time because you plan to watch
specific shows instead of zoning out and
flipping through the channels indefinitely.
after-school TV watching
and video game use with physical activities. Get
involved with activities at your school or in
Making It Work
Look for chances to move more and eat better at
home, at school, and in the community.
It is not easy to maintain a healthy weight in
today's environment. Fast food restaurants on every
corner, vending machines at schools, and not enough
safe places for physical activity can make it
difficult to eat healthfully and be active. Busy
schedules may also keep families from fixing and
eating dinners together.
Understanding your home,
school, and community is an important step in
changing your eating and activity habits. Your
answers to the questions
on this checklist can help you identify barriers and
ways to change your behavior to support your
Is the kitchen
stocked with fruits, vegetables, low-fat or
fat-free milk and milk products, whole-grain
items, and other foods you need to eat healthy?
Can you get water
and low-fat or fat-free milk instead of soda,
sweetened tea, and sugary fruit drinks?
Do you pack
healthy lunches to take to school?
Does your family
eat dinner together a few times per week?
Do you have
sports or exercise equipment at home, including
balls, bikes, and jump ropes?
Do you limit the
hours you spend watching TV or playing video or
cafeteria offer healthy foods such as salads and
Are there vending
machines in school where you can buy snacks and
drinks like baked chips, fig bars, and bottled
Do you take gym
class on a regular basis?
after-school sports or other physical activities
available aside from gym class?
Community (Where You Live)
Are there bike paths, hiking
trails, swimming pools, parks, or open fields that
are safe to use?
Is there a community center,
church, or other place that offers classes such as
dance, self-defense, or other physical activities?
Are there grocery stores that
offer fruits, vegetables,
and other healthy foods?
Do the streets have sidewalks so
you can walk safely?
Change Occurs Slowly
Old habits are hard to break
and new ones, especially those related to eating and
physical activity, can take months to develop and stick
with. Here are some tips to help you in the process:
- Make changes slowly.
Do not expect to change your eating or activity habits
too much too fast can hurt your chances of success.
- Look at your current
eating and physical activity habits and at ways you can
make them healthier. Use a food and activity journal
for 4 or 5 days, and write down everything you eat, your
activities, and your emotions. Review your journal to
get a picture of your habits. Do you skip breakfast? Are
you eating fruits and vegetables every day? Are you
physically active most days of the week? Do you eat when
you are stressed? Can you substitute physical activity
for eating at these times? For tips on keeping a food
and activity diary, check out the website of the
American Academy of Family Physicians at
www.familydoctor.org. You can also buy inexpensive
journals at grocery stores, discount stores, or online
- Set a few realistic
goals for yourself. First, try cutting back the
number of sweetened sodas you drink by replacing a
couple of them with unsweetened
beverages. Once you have reduced your sweetened soda
intake, try eliminating these drinks from your diet.
Then set a few more goals, like drinking low-fat or
fat-free milk, eating more fruits, or getting more
physical activity each day.
- Identify your
barriers. Are there unhealthy snack foods at home
that are too tempting? Is the food at your cafeteria too
high in fat and added sugars? Do you find it hard to
resist drinking several sweetened sodas a day because
your friends do it? Use the
to identify changes you can make.
- Get a buddy at school
or someone at home to support your new habits. Ask a
friend, sibling, parent, or guardian to help you make
changes and stick with your new habits.
- Know that you can do
it! Use the information in this booklet and the
resources listed at the end to help you. Stay positive
and focused by remembering why you wanted to be
healthier--to look, feel, move, and learn better. Accept
relapses--if you fail at one of your nutrition or
physical activity goals one day, do not give up. Just
try again the next day. Also, share this information
with your family. They can support you in adopting
is your access point for the U.S. Department
of Agriculture's (USDA) food guidance system. This
website contains general guidance on food and
healthy eating, with tips and suggestions for making
smart dietary choices. The site also features
interactive tools that can customize food and
calorie recommendations according to your age,
gender, and physical activity level.
run by The President's Council on Physical Fitness
and Sports, provides regular updates on the
Council's activities as well as resources on how to
get involved in its programs.
www.girlshealth.gov, developed by the Office on
Women's Health, provides girls with reliable health
information on physical activity, nutrition, stress
reduction, and more.
www.fns.usda.gov/tn is the USDA's Team Nutrition
website, which focuses on the role nutritious school
meals, nutrition education, and a health-promoting
school environment play in helping students learn to
enjoy healthy eating and physical activity.
www.nichd.nih.gov/msy is the National Institute
of Child Health and Development's Media-Smart Youth:
Eat, Think, and Be Active! program. This interactive
after-school program is designed to help young
people become aware of the media's influence on
their food and physical activity choices.
www.cdc.gov/powerfulbones is part of the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Powerful
Bones, Powerful Girls, which is a national health
campaign that provides tips on healthy eating and
www.canfit.org, the website of the California
Adolescent Nutrition and Fitness Program, provides
resources on adolescent nutrition and body image,
fitness, and more.
http://hin.nhlbi.nih.gov/portion/keep.htm is a
quiz from the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that tests your
knowledge of how food portion sizes have changed during
the last 20 years.
site sponsored by the CDC's Division of Nutrition and
Physical Activity, addresses the importance of physical
activity and provides recommendations on how to get
started on a fitness program. It includes links to
websites that offer health information for teenagers.
1 WIN Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3665
Phone: (202) 828-1025
Toll-free number: 1-877-946-4627
FAX: (202) 828-1028
The Weight-control Information Network (WIN)
is a national information service of the National Institute
of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the
National Institutes of Health, which is the Federal
Government's lead agency responsible for biomedical research
on nutrition and obesity. Authorized by Congress (Public Law
103-43), WIN provides the general public, health
professionals, the media, and Congress with up-to-date,
science-based health information on weight control, obesity,
physical activity, and related nutritional issues.
Publications provided by WIN are reviewed by both NIDDK
scientists and outside experts.
Special thanks to the teens who helped with
This publication is not copyrighted. WIN
encourages users of this brochure to duplicate and
distribute as many copies as desired.
NIH Publication No. 06-4328
Updated September 2006
e-text posted: January 2007
1-877-946-4627 Fax: (202)
828-1028 E-mail: email@example.com
Weight-control Information Network, 1 WIN Way, Bethesda,