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Weight Management: Teen Version

Why is weight so important?

Being overweight increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. If you are overweight, losing just 5 to 10% of your weight and keeping it off lowers your risk for developing most of these diseases. Being at a healthy weight also increases your energy and self-confidence.

What is a healthy weight?

The number you see on the scale doesn't necessarily tell you whether you need to lose weight. That's because two people of the same height and weight can have different bone structures. They may carry different amounts of muscle and body fat. To find out if you are at a healthy weight, your healthcare provider usually checks your body mass index (BMI). BMI uses your height and weight to estimate how much fat is on your body.

If your BMI for your age is in the Overweight or Obese range on the growth chart, you are overweight or at risk for being overweight as an adult.

If you want to lose weight, you need a safe, healthy, well-balanced weight-loss diet. You also need to change your physical activity habits.

What are some simple rules to live by?

Use ChooseMyPlate to eat a balance of healthy foods in the right amounts.

The ChooseMyPlate method divides the plate into 4 food groups: fruit, vegetable, grains, and protein. You can use this plate to choose foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Simply fill half of a 9-inch plate with fruits and vegetables. The other half of the plate should be split between starches (such as whole grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes) and lean proteins, like lean meat, beans, and peas. A cup of low-fat or skim milk or yogurt on the side is ok.

Reduce portion sizes.

Supersizing is so common that many of us don't even know what a reasonable portion size should be. Even if you just order off a regular menu, portions can be huge, such as drinks, sandwiches, pasta, and muffins. A good starting point is to cut your regular portions down by half. When eating out, take half your meal home. Order the small sizes or share the high-calorie items with a friend. Eat slowly, and you may be surprised to find that you are totally comfortable with the smaller portions.

Reduce saturated fat and trans fats.

Saturated fat and trans fat may be the biggest source of extra calories in a teen's diet. These calories not only lead to weight gain, but increase your risk for chronic conditions, such as heart disease. Common food pitfalls for teens include:

  • Fast food hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pizza, crispy chicken patties, chicken fries and nuggets, French fries, breakfast sandwiches with cheese, bacon or sausage, and deep fried dessert pies (Homemade versions of fried foods are healthier if chicken is skinless and food is fried in canola or olive oil, but fried food still packs a lot of extra calories.)
  • Whole milk and whole milk desserts such as milkshakes and ice cream
  • High fat lunch meats, like bologna, salami, and hot dogs
  • Butter, sour cream, creamy salad dressing, full fat cheeses, heavy sauces, and baked goods

Take time to think about healthier versions of these favorites. You can:

  • Choose a grilled chicken sandwich, veggie burger, or grilled chicken salad instead of a hamburger.
  • Order veggie pizza with half the cheese.
  • Try skim milk desserts and reduced fat cheeses.
  • Eat low-fat or fat-free dressings.
  • Use mustard instead of mayonnaise.
  • Eat tomato-based sauces rather than cream sauces.
  • Avoid bacon and sausage.

It helps to get your whole family involved. Keep lower fat versions of favorite foods in the house. Grill, bake, broil, steam, and stir-fry instead of frying.

Do not skip meals.

Get into the habit of eating 3 regular meals (keeping smaller portions in mind) and a few snacks in between. Skipping meals can lead to increased hunger and uncontrolled overeating later.

Snack on fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean yogurt.

Rich in vitamins and minerals, fruit and veggies help fill you up with unprocessed carbohydrate and fiber. Non-fat dairy products are high in calcium and protein and may help you stay at a healthy weight. Fresh fruit is a perfect anytime snack. Try raw vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and snap peas or prepare a small salad or bowl of lower salt vegetable soup; choose non-fat or low-fat yogurt. A small bowl of low-sugar cereal with milk and sliced fruit is another great idea. Plan to take snacks with you so vending machine snacks will be less tempting.

Drink water instead of sugary soft drinks, energy drinks, and sodas.

Soda is really just sugared water. It packs about 250 calories per 20 ounce bottle. Drinking more soda is one of the top 3 causes of teen obesity. Energy drinks often have as much sugar and calories as soda and more caffeine. Too much caffeine can keep your body from absorbing calcium. This is especially true if you do not get enough calcium in your diet. Drinking too many soft drinks (diet or regular) may also have a negative effect on bone development, especially when these drinks replace milk.

Depending on body size and level of activity, you need about 8 cups of fluid per day. Some of this comes from foods (like fruits and vegetables) and the rest from liquids. Try to get into the habit of drinking more water. It will keep you hydrated, quench your thirst, and fill you up. Carry bottled water with you and drink it throughout the day. Be sure to recycle your water bottles.

It is all right to get some of your needed fluids from drinks other than water. Non-fat and low-fat milk are mostly water and always a good choice. Juices also have a high water content, but also have a lot of calories. Limit fruit juice to no more than 1 cup per day. It is better to get your fruit servings from whole fruit rather than juice. You can choose diet soda or no calorie fruit flavored drinks sweetened with NutraSweet, Stevia, or Splenda sometimes.

Do something physically active every day.

Get some moderate to strenuous activity for 60 minutes each day. It may take some time to get to this level of fitness, but it is a good goal. It is OK to start out slowly and work your way up. Include aerobic exercise such as walking or swimming, strength exercises such as push-ups or lifting weights, and stretching exercises.

Forgive Yourself.

Losing weight is hard work. If you go off your diet for one meal or one day, don’t let it affect the next day. It happens to everyone. Just get back on track. Remember that exercise can lift your mood and keep you positive.

You can get more information about healthy eating from the ChooseMyPlate Web site at:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-05-29
Last reviewed: 2012-05-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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