Teens need a flexible meal plan during puberty
By Julie Stelting RN CDE
Kids at Risk for Diabetes LLC
Obesity rates in Americans continue to rise. Weight gaining trends in children continue into adulthood. Even if your child has normal height and weight percentages, if their BMI is increasing, they are at risk for health problems as adults. Let’s focus on a solution before it becomes a real problem. So let’s talk about a teen meal plan and how you can help your children.
How many calories do growing children need?
The CDC estimates current American adults consumes approximately 2700 calories each day. Based on the overconsumption by adults, I believe Americans have a misconception of how many calories are appropriate for growing children. According to American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) the approximate calories for children can be calculated by their age. Take the children’s age in years multiplied by 100 plus 1000. For example, a five-year-old would need 1500 calories. That’s 5 years X 100 = 500 + 1000 calories = 1500 total calories needed per day. (Chase, 2011)
Easier to track carbs
Counting calories is almost impossible for the parents of children. So the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends targeting carbohydrates (carbs) not calories. The ADA has completed extensive research on serving sizes for an approximate 15-gram carb measurement of per each servicing sizes. Simple sugars, also known as carbs, like candy and soft drinks should be avoided as much as possible. Even large amounts of fruit juice and milk should be avoided. Of course, you should listen to what your pediatrician says about your child’s milk consumption. But it is highly recommended that children regularly be offered cold water to drink.
The ADA’s dietary recommendations are not exact for calorie counts. Parents need to teach proper serving sizes. Unfortunately, many Americans have forgotten normal serving sizes. For example, today’s muffins could have easily been considered a two or three person serving size in the past. Remember your grandmother’s juice glasses? They were 4-ounce servings. Today a small juice serving is 8 ounces and many times much larger.
Focus on serving sizes and portions
Children need to be knowledgeable about what foods are higher in calories. The National Eating Disorders Association reports by 4 years old, children can identify foods that make them fat. (Association, 2016). We need to teach children to limit their portion sizes on these foods. It is improbable that they will refuse to eat Halloween candy. So teach them that small amounts of candy are ok.
They need to be educated on proper serving sizes. The American Diabetes Meal Plan emphasizes portion control. Teach proper portions to your children.
Children also need to be encouraged to eat a wide variety of foods from a very young age. Research has shown if you introduce a wide range of vegetables and fruit before the age of 2, they will eat a wider variety of foods. Children just need to be encouraged to eat a balanced diet.
The American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) average 2000-calorie plan could result in over 2000 calories, depending on the amount of high sugar and high-fat foods. If you are a diabetic, you should already be familiar with the ADA meal plan and portion controls. It is a good program to encourage eating healthy.
It is also an excellent program for the whole family to follow. If you are a diabetic, the genetic risk for your children is significantly increased. By controlling weight gain, you can prevent them from getting type 2 diabetes. The ADA 2000 calorie meal plan is appropriate for children ages 9-19 years old.
The CDC predicts that by 2020, 3 out of 5 Americans will be diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes. It behooves us all to become knowledgeable concerning the ADA’s recommended serving sizes. Being an RN and certified diabetes educator, I believe following a well-rounded diet along with living a balanced life will result in improved health for everyone. I advocate the American Diabetes Association exchange program for diet improvements, particularly in teens.
Association, N. E. (2016). Get the Fact on Eating Disorders. Retrieved from National Eating Disorders Association: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders
Chase, H. P. (2011). Understanding Diabetes, A handbook for people who are living with diabetes. Devner CO: Paros Press.