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Healthy eating for teens and young adults

To grow and be healthy, you need to be active and eat the right foods. What we eat and drink has a big impact on our general health and wellbeing, our immune system and our risk of getting major diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

If we eat a wide range of foods, we can get all the energy, vitamins and minerals we need to live well and healthy lives.

Vegetables and fruit - eat these the most 

Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables – they’re packed with goodness and help prevent lots of long-term health problems and cancers. To keep you at your healthiest, you should eat a minimum of 3 servings of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit every day.

Choose whole grain cereals, breads and pastas 

Breads, cereals, grains, and starchy vegetables are a staple in many Kiwi diets.  For good health, choose whole grain and high fibre varieties. On your plate, these foods should fill no more than one-quarter of your plate, or be a fist-sized amount.  

Eat a healthy breakfast

  • Starting the day with a healthy breakfast is important for good energy and a strong immune system.
  • Most cereals are high in sugar and low in fibre, and natural nutrients.
  • In general, people who eat breakfast eat less fat, more fibre, and have higher intakes of vitamins and minerals – in particular iron, calcium and magnesium.
  • A good breakfast can help memory and concentration, leading to better performance whether you are studying or working.
  • Skipping breakfast does not help you lose weight. Most studies show it has the opposite effect as people are more likely to overeat later in the day, or eat high energy, poor nutrient foods.

Check you are getting enough calcium

Calcium is vital for strong bones. It is deposited in our bones until our mid-20s. If you don’t have sufficient calcium deposits, you can be left with brittle bones which easily break (osteoporosis) as they get older. 

Teenagers need 1300mg of calcium per day up to the age of 19 years when their bones stop growing so much. This is the equivalent of four glasses of milk! 

Cut back on processed foods

When you leave school, start working, studying or go flatting, it's easy to fall into unhealthy habits and have more takeaways, sugary drinks and instant packaged foods. It’s OK to have these every-so-often but it’s not good for you to be having them regularly.

Processed foods are anything in a packet, jar, bottle or bag where food has been changed from its original form. Nearly all processed foods are high in one or more of sugar, salt, fats, high in calories and low in nutritional value. 

Try to stay away from:

  • Processed meats like sausage, luncheon, bacon and ham.
  • Drinks - flavoured milk, fizzy drinks etc.
  • Packet foods - instant noodles, soups, meals, sauce mixes, cake mixes etc.
  • Most frozen foods (excluding frozen vegetables, berries, unprocessed meat, chicken or fish).