Healthy eating can be a challenge, and when you experience strong cravings as a teenager, making healthy food choices can be even harder (as if life weren’t hard enough for you right now!).
People who experience periods know that urges to eat specific foods can be overwhelmingly strong during certain times of the month. And those cravings usually aren’t the healthiest.
And it’s all too easy to fall into the habit of using comfort foods as a crutch. Ice cream, chocolate, and cheese fries all seem to be magical cures for moodiness. And when presented with a choice like snacking on carrots or snacking on chips—chips are the obvious first choice.
So, what can we do about it?
Well, healthy eating is all about forming healthy eating habits—so when the urge to snack is strong, you can still indulge with a good conscience.
Here are a few tips for forming healthy habits that last so that you can feel more energized.
Eat at least three times a day.
This might seem too obvious for some people, but this piece of advice is serious. As a teenager, it’s common to have a lot going on. Between your social life, family affairs, school work, personal goals, and job or college applications, eating can feel like a chore.
Skipping a complete meal in favor of a box of cookies or a packet of ramen is easy—but it’s a bad habit that you’ll wish you dropped sooner rather than later.
Prioritize eating an actual meal at least three times a day. And the key here is “at least.” Snacking throughout the day (when those snacks are healthy) isn’t a bad habit.
If you’re feeling tired, think about the last time you ate. Humans do best when they eat every 3-4 hours.
Make healthy food swaps.
Speaking of snacking, discovering your favorite healthy snacks is a great doorway towards healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Consider making healthy food swaps by replacing some less healthy go-to foods with healthy ones.
At this point, you might be thinking, “what is healthy food?”
It’s important to recognize that there is no “bad” food. But some foods should be eaten more or less often. Healthy foods are generally the foods that are best to eat more often—like:
• fresh fruits and vegetables
• fish, poultry, and plant-based protein sources such as beans or tofu
• whole grains like oats, rice, and whole wheat (this gives you lasting energy and fiber)
• nuts and seeds (in moderation)
Together, these healthy foods create a balanced diet that provides nutrients essential for good energy levels, quality sleep, and mental health.
So then, what foods should we eat less often? Those are things like:
• processed meats (like sausage, bacon, hot dogs, and deli meat)
• other processed foods (like chips, crackers, candies, and cookies)
• foods high in fat, salt, or sugar (like desserts and fried foods)
You don’t have to avoid these foods like they’re the plague, but they shouldn’t be a regular part of your everyday diet.
If they are, make healthy food swaps by switching out unhealthy foods for healthier ones. Instead of eating a popsicle, try frozen grapes. Enjoy a parfait with Greek yogurt and fresh berries instead of a cheesecake. It will take some practice, but you can do it.
Don’t rely on your willpower.
When trying to make these healthy swaps, remember that out of sight equals out of mind. You’re more likely to eat what you see, so make healthy choices convenient.
Keep a fruit bowl on the table or bring fresh veggies to snack on to school. If you don’t see it or have it, it’s easier not to eat it.
Crush barriers ahead of time.
One reason it’s so common to form unhealthy eating habits is that less healthy foods are easier than healthy foods. Cookies, crackers, and other processed foods are ready to eat out of the bag. But fresh fruits and vegetables need to be washed and prepared.
When you’re feeling low energy, don’t make yourself wash those grapes or peel an orange. Instead, prepare healthy meals and snacks ahead of time.
That way, when you start to feel hungry, you won’t feel as tempted to reach for cookies out of convenience.
Pro tip: Prepare several meals and snacks at the same time. While you wait for one thing to bake in the oven, you can wash, chop, or portion other things.
Create an arsenal of healthy meal ideas.
One of the hardest parts of healthy eating is knowing what meals are healthy and how you can make them taste great.
Set aside some time to discover which healthy meals are your favorite, and write down a list with links to recipes.
If your parents, guardians, or siblings cook for you, talk to them about incorporating more vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins into the mix.
Being a Teenager is Hard: Don’t Make it Harder
When you don’t eat right, your body and mind suffer. Even if you are eating something, if you don’t have a nutritious diet, you’ll find yourself exhausted and irritated.
Being a teenager is hard enough. So, make sure you fuel your growing body and mind to get through it.
Oh, and remember to drink more water. You need about 64 every day!
For more information about Women’s Health, or If you’re looking for an OBGYN in the Cincinnati area, call us at 513-241-4774, or schedule your appointment.