Teens need to take charge of healthy eating

“My Plate” guidelines detail the recommended servings of fruits, veggies, protein, grains, and dairy per meal. It replaced the traditional food pyramid in 2011.

Despite former first lady Michelle Obama’s valiant efforts to combat obesity by reforming school lunch guidelines, teens are still not fueling their bodies properly. According to the CDC, from 2011-2014, 20.5 percent of 12 to 19-year-olds in the United States fell into the obese category.

Even young people who are not obese are not eating healthy. A large percentage of teens fall short on the daily recommended levels of fruits and vegetables, as per WebMD.com.

Such an issue should not be difficult to combat, however. Teens need take initiative in their own health. If high school kids make smarter dietary choices, they are more likely to set a precedence for the rest of their life.

Adolescents need higher amounts of nutrients—particularly in the form of protein and complex carbohydrates—than adults do, because their bodies are still developing. Such vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals simply cannot be obtained from mindlessly downing honey barbeque boneless wings and McDoubles.

Completely altering your diet and eating only “clean” foods right off the bat is not necessary. In fact, starting off with small changes in an effort to have a healthier diet makes you more likely to stick to such a routine.

Swapping out one fast food meal per week for a healthier, home-cooked alternative is one way to start. If eating fast food is unavoidable for you, choose menu items lower in calories such as salads or wraps. Eventually, you will make a habit of healthy eating.

Becoming more mindful of what is in your food is another important step on the road to a healthy lifestyle. Tracking your meals on an app such as MyFitnessPal will show you how much protein, fat and carbohydrates you are consuming and allow you to set caloric goals.

Just remember, your fast metabolism will not last forever. While you may be able to eat whatever you want whenever you want now, those calories will catch up to your eventually.

Making conscious changes and becoming aware of your diet at a young age prevents the need for a complete diet overhaul once inevitable health issues begin occurring later in life.

Individuals are likely to carry on with their eating habits established early in life—whether good or bad—on into adulthood. Start making healthy choices now and reap the benefits throughout the rest of your life.