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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.

Snack smart.

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 amounts:
  • 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 needs. Family 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.

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.

Physical Activity

Like eating well, physical activity may help you feel good. Being physically active may:
  • Help you control your weight, build lean muscle, and reduce your body fat.
  • Strengthen your bones.
  • Increase flexibility and balance.
  • 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 school.
  • Improving your teamwork skills through sports.

Activities

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 week.
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.
  • Replace after-school TV watching and video game use with physical activities. Get involved with activities at your school or in your community.
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 overnight. Changing 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 bookstores.
  • 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 tips above 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 healthier behaviors.
Youth Task Force of Martha's Vineyard