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Energy boosting foods for teenagers

Adolescence...

The period during which you wonder when your little angel started to develop into a young adult.

It’s a time of big changes and as teenagers mature, they start to make more food choices on their own, often in the company of influential peers.

Deciding what to eat is part of growing up, but very often teenage food choices give health the short shrift. Juggling school, sport and a new-found social circle presents a major challenge to eating healthily, with many teens skimping on foods that help fuel their growth and development.

Missing meals, especially breakfast, and choosing processed and convenience foods over fresh, translates into too much fat, salt and sugar, and not enough of the fibre, vitamins and minerals essential for a teen's health now and later.

While you can’t do much about what foods they choose to buy while at school or out with friends, there’s a lot to be said for educating them on smart food choices at home in the hope they’ll store it alongside their trigonometry homework and French vocabulary.

Start the day right

In the morning, the body has been fasting for at least up to 12 hours, so blood sugars are at their lowest level. Skipping breakfast means that the body and its energy levels might be running in second gear by the time your teen gets to school.

Healthy breakfast options to boost energy include: porridge with fruit, vegetable omelettes and wholemeal toast, but if your teen can't face eating as soon as they wake, send them off with a high-fibre snack to eat on the go, rather than giving them chance to snack on high-sugar or high-fat foods.

Slow-burning starches

Starchy foods (carbohydrates) such as potatoes, bread, cereals and pasta are an important part of a healthy diet – they're a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients.

Starchy foods should make up just over a third of everything your teen eats and, where possible, go for slow-burning wholegrain or wholemeal varieties, as they release energy gradually.

Sugar – the stamina stealer

Sugar undoubtedly provides a rush of energy, but one that wears off quickly – no use for a long day at school or during exams.

Cutting out all sugar is virtually impossible, but try to steer your teen towards the natural sugars in lots of foods, such as fruit and vegetables.

And it goes without saying that foods with lots of added sugar, such as: sweets, cakes, biscuits, non-diet fizzy drinks and chocolate, need to be consumed in moderation.

Get some iron

Iron is essential for boosting a teen's brain function, immunity and energy level. Girls between 11 and 18 years old need about 15mg per day, while boys need around 11mg.

Also, iron is better absorbed by the body when it comes from animal foods such as: beef, poultry, pork and eggs, but if eaten alongside a vitamin C rich food, plant sources such as vegetables, beans and nuts work just as well.