Learn why healthy eating is important for teens.

Why healthy eating matters

You have likely heard that healthy eating is important. But maybe you think these messages do not apply to you.

Healthy eating is important at every age. As a teen, it is important to get the nutrients and energy you need to grow.

Healthy eating is about:

  • the foods you choose
  • developing healthy eating habits
  • learning skills, like how to:
    • plan
    • shop
    • prepare healthy foods

Healthy eating can benefit you in the short and long term. Creating healthy habits as a teen can help you develop habits that will last a lifetime.

Healthy eating may:

  • be good for the environment
  • help you feel good and give you more energy
  • help you perform better in activities that are important to you, such as:
    • sports
    • school
    • hobbies

By preparing your own food, you can:

  • save money
  • learn new cooking skills
  • make foods that you enjoy
  • become more independent

In the long term, healthy eating can help reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases that can impact your health and well-being.

Healthy eating can be seen as a challenge because you may:

  • think healthy eating costs more
  • find it easier to eat away from home
  • feel too rushed to make a healthy meal or snack
  • think healthy eating is only needed if you are “unhealthy”

Healthy eating is an important part of healthy living now and in the future.

Healthy eating habits

Working on building healthy eating habits and focusing on your overall health can be more important than focusing on your body weight. Use these ideas to develop habits that help make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Choose vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods that you enjoy

These foods are filled with nutrients that your body needs.

Every day, choose a variety of:

  • vegetables and fruit, including:
    • dark green vegetables such as kale and bok choy each day
    • orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potato most days
  • whole grain foods, such as:
    • oats
    • wild rice
    • whole wheat pasta
  • protein foods such as:
    • eggs
    • nuts and seeds
    • fish and shellfish
    • beans, peas, and lentils
    • lean red meats, including wild game
    • lower fat dairy products such as milk and yogurt
    • fortified soy beverages, tofu, soybeans and other soy products

Try including vegetables and fruits at every meal and snack. They are filled with nutrients that your body needs. They also make a great snack when you are on the go.

Eating a variety of healthy foods is the best way to help get the nutrients you need. Since vitamin D is found in very few foods, eat foods containing vitamin D or take a supplement with 400 IU (10 µg) of vitamin D every day.

If you could become pregnant, you should take a multivitamin with 400 µg (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day. Multivitamins may also contain vitamin D. 

Make healthy drink choices

Making healthy drink choices is as important as your food choices.

Make water your drink of choice.

Healthy drink options other than water can include:

  • white milk (unsweetened lower fat milk)
  • unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages

Get involved

Helping plan and prepare meals can give you the confidence you need to make healthy choices. Getting involved means you can help your family choose healthy foods.

This is a great chance to take charge and learn new skills. Try helping with:

  • grocery shopping
  • preparing meals and snacks
  • being responsible for certain meals
  • meal planning and creating a grocery list

Plan meals and snacks

Life can be busy. Planning ahead can be the key to healthy eating.

Mornings can be rushed, but eating breakfast is important. If you often skip breakfast, think of the reasons why and plan ways to overcome these.

Try preparing your breakfast the night before. Do you have an activity early in the morning? Think about bringing breakfast with you.

Thinking about your day ahead and planning to bring food can help you choose healthier options and save money. This can help you avoid being as tempted by foods around you, such as those in vending machines.

Planning and packing snacks often gets forgotten. When planning and preparing lunches, don’t forget about your snacks.

When you get home, you may be tempted to grab the first thing you see. Plan ahead and prepare some healthy snacks.

Eat meals with your family

Eating meals with others is an important part of healthy eating.

The meals you eat with your family can give you a chance to connect with your family.

This can help you:

  • develop healthy habits
  • learn about culture and food traditions
  • build and strengthen family relationships

Eat without distractions

Focus all of your attention on eating. Turn off the TV and put away your phone, lap-top or other screens. When you are distracted while you eat, you can lose track of how much you have eaten.

Be aware of food marketing

Food marketing comes in many forms, such as:

  • branding
  • sponsorships
  • ads on social media

Food marketing tries to impact how and what you choose to eat. Most foods that are advertised are highly processed foods.

Follow the healthy eating recommendation to help you become aware of how food marketing can influence your choices

Make it a habit to choose healthy foods

Try including vegetables and fruits at every meal and snack. They are filled with nutrients that your body needs. They also make a great snack when you are on the go.

When deciding what to drink, make water your drink of choice. Carry a reusable water bottle so you always have water with you.

Be a champion

You can have an impact on others.

Talk to your parents about healthy eating. You can encourage them to take sugary drinks and other highly processed foods off your family’s grocery list. Not having these foods and drinks in the house means you will likely make heathier food choices.

You can also suggest ideas for healthy meals your whole family will enjoy.

It doesn’t just have to be at home. You can also talk to your:

  • friends
  • coaches
  • teachers

Think about:

  • how you can make the healthy choice the easy choice at school and in your community
  • how you can use healthy foods to celebrate at class parties or sporting events
  • joining the student council to ensure there are healthy choices available for everyone

Make a healthy choice

What you eat on a regular basis matters for your health.

  • Choose foods that have little to no added sodium, sugars or saturated fat.
  • Compare the nutrition facts table on foods to choose products that are lower in sodium, sugars or saturated fat.