5 Ways Good Nutrition Influences Adolescent Growth That You Didn’t Think About

February 5, 2022 | Amanda Clouse

The last thing most of us want to hear is someone harping on us about how we eat. As a teenager, all I wanted to eat was candy bars, pizza, and Frosted Mini-Wheats. As teens, we kind of know we won’t be able to eat poorly—seemingly unscathed—forever, so why not take advantage of it? While living for the moment is arguably one of the best perks of being a young adult, adolescence is also the time when we begin to examine our future. We are starting to make college plans and decide what we want our adult lives to look like. We should do the same with our health. Good nutrition influences adolescent and teen growth.

 
Before I tell you why this is so important, let us define what “good nutrition” looks like for most teens.  

What is Healthy Eating?

As a Certified Holistic Nutrition Coach, I would narrow the best healthy eating practices for most adolescents down to two things: balance and a whole-food-based diet. It’s relatively simple. Whole foods are any food in their natural form. For example, a whole- food choice could be deciding to eat an intact potato instead of French fries. A real potato… out of the ground.  

Basic nutritional balance hinges on six things:

  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Hydration—half your body weight in ounces
  • Macro Balance
  • Avoid Unhealthy Foods
 

I would consider “unhealthy foods” to be:

  • Saturated fats
  • Sugar
  • Processed carbs
  • Oils
  • Salts
  • Preservatives

Your water intake should be half your body weight in ounces a day.
 

Your Macros should look something like this:

  • Protein— 30% of your diet: Meat, Cheese, Nuts, Eggs, Seeds, Beans, Legumes, Mushrooms, etc. 
  • Carbohydrates— 45% of your diet: Whole Fruits and Veggies, Whole Grains, Starches, Root Veggies, etc. 
  • Healthy Fats— 25% of your diet: Cold Water Fish, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Flax Oil, Chia, Hemp, Raw Butter, Ghee 

 
Any kind of diet can be rich in protein, including vegan and vegetarian diets. It’s best to focus on proteins richer in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, like fish, seeds, and nuts. Carbohydrates are comprised of both complex and Simple Carbohydrates. Ideally, you want to consume larger quantities of complex carbohydrates and less refined carbohydrates. The more EFA (essential fatty acids) you incorporate into your diet, the better. Use EFAs to fulfill your daily intake and as alternatives to other unhealthy fats. 
 
Besides gassing up our bodies with the right kind of fuel, eating healthy also has a sort of trickle effect that we may not recognize right away.

 

#1. Eating Healthy Gives You Confidenceand a Sense of Accomplishment

 

At the root of confidence or accomplishment, we have self-care and self-love. Putting any effort at all towards bettering one’s self is, in fact, an act of self-love. What better way is there to gain confidence and a sense of accomplishment than by eating healthy?
According to Ralph Rybach, M.D., author of The Truism of Wellness—The Science of Accomplishing Your Goals, you can thank dopamine for your sense of accomplishment. Dr. Rybach says that every time we achieve something, our brain releases dopamine.
 
‘When we get something we want—a promotion, an ice cream cone, or a kiss from a loved one—our brain releases dopamine. This chemical is often known as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter because it does just that—it makes us feel good. It’s possible to manipulate your dopamine levels by setting small goals and then accomplishing them.’
 
We can understand how it would be helpful to set small goals like good nutrition habits. Teens are aware of their bigger “life”  goals. Often, there can be a lot of pressure from parents, school, and others to decide what they want to do with their lives. Succeeding in smaller goals—like healthy eating— along with the larger goals provides a consistent flow of positive energy and regular feelings of well-being. Thus, one is more likely to reach their long-term goals.
 

#2. Taking Responsibility for Your Body Develops Maturity and a Sense of Independence

Growing into adults can be awkward, scary, and confusing. Our adolescent years are where we begin to make our own decisions… whether our parents are ready for it or not!
Even as toddlers, we start to decide what we do and don’t want to eat. And as growing young adults, we begin to value our ability to choose, and rightfully so. The power of choice is something we should all appreciate.
Our choices show the world; who we are, what we stand for, and where we are going. Once we understand good and bad—right from wrong— it becomes our burden to bear when we choose unwisely.
But we can also begin to make good decisions like eating healthy that we can be proud of. Once you’ve started making decisions you feel good about, you are less likely to cave into peer pressure. We domino into stronger, capable beings. You evolve emotionally and become more adept at keeping yourself together. Recognizing our healthy choices is crucial on our journeys to becoming happy, independent, and successful adults.

 

#3. One Healthy Habit… Leads to More Healthy Habits

If all of us could agree on just one thing about eating healthy, I think it would be that it gives us energy. Right? That’s a no-brainer. We learned that in kindergarten. Yet, an increase in energy could spark more willingness to be physically active or exercise. Exercising and healthy eating goes hand-in-hand, and both feed off of each other.
There is a trickle effect going on here as well. And things like getting better sleep because you exercised and ate the right foods can create more energy and alertness. Proper rest, better energy, and alertness trickle down too.

 

You start to see:

  • Better Focus
  • Better digestion
  • Hormone balances
  • Better immunity
  • Better Skin, Hair, Nails, Teeth
  • Disintegrating health issues
  • Fat loss
  • Better muscle tone
 
And… because each actionable step you take brings you gratification and wellness, you will continue to add more healthy habits to your routine. That’s when healthy living becomes a lifestyle rather than a burden.
 
 

#4. Positive Vibes, Attitude, and Manifesting What You Want

The idea of manifestation and the “Law of Attraction” has become relatively mainstream. Some may credit the recent hum to the film The Secret and the controversial Ester Hicks. Esther travels around the world talking about the power of the “Law of Attraction.” She does this through some sort of channeled energy she calls Abraham.
 
The movie, later transformed into a book, was initially inspired by Esther’s teaching. But the origins of the “Law of Attraction” theory can be traced back to several ancient spiritual and religious teachings.  Buddhism and Christianity both speak on the Law of Attraction.
  
 
‘We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.’  —Buddha
 
 
‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’
–Luke 6:38 (NIV)
 
I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t buy into the Ester Hicks hype, nor that I do. But there is scientific research that also supports the “Law of Attraction” theory.
 
The Yonsei Medical Journal published a peer-reviewed study in June of 2007 that specifically focused on how positive thinking affects our well-being. The study reasoned that positivity did have a measurable influence on one’s outlook, growth, motivation, and success. A good rule of thumb can be to practice an attitude of gratitude. The more you focus on being thankful— the less space you have for negative thoughts and responses. Be satisfied with every accomplishment, big or small.
 

#5. You Become A Source of Positive Energy and Leadership for the People around you

We’ve all been swept up by someone else’s energy before. For example, have you ever been talking to someone and found yourself becoming captivated? Their voice, facial expressions, tone, or enthusiasm penetrate your energy field. You quickly find yourself wanting to agree to everything they are saying.
 
By nature, we want to be like our fellow humans. We want to feel what they feel, act how they act and have our ideas and beliefs validated by others. We typically fall into two categories—the leaders and the followers. However, while we may lean more to one side in general, we all have moments of receiving from others and moments of inspiring others.
 
You may not want to be the president of the debate club or volleyball captain. Still, when you feel good about yourself, you are motivating others around you with your energy. You’re setting the stage—if you will— for others to present their best selves too. It’s a simple concept, yet it’s so profoundly beautiful. One healthy choice is like tossing a stone into a pond. It generates a ripple that unavoidably changes our entire being.
 
 
Imagine the impact you could have on someone struggling for one reason or another. Let me repeat it. You have the power to significantly impact your own life and the world around you for the better.
 
The ball is in your court. What will you do with it?

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