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Healthy Eating for Teens Made Easy

How to Plan a Healthy Meal Without Counting Calories or Portions

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Updated April 01, 2009

Parents are often concerned about what their teen is eating, and want to know how how to promote healthy eating for teens. Based on your teen's metabolism, height, weight, stage of puberty or level of activity, the calories that your teen needs varies. You can calculate the calories that your teen needs, but what if he or she is of normal weight? Or if calorie counting seems too overwhelming?

A healthy meal plate is an idea that has been around for a while in many forms. Healthy meal planning can be made easy by using a standard ten-inch dinner plate. Imagine dividing the plate into two halves, and then dividing the one halves into two quarters. From there:

  • Fill one half of plate with vegetables. These should be non-starchy vegetables like green beans, carrots, or salad greens.

  • Fill one quarter of plate with lean protein. These proteins can be healthy choices like fish, chicken, tofu or beans.

  • Fill one quarter of the plate with starchy vegetables or whole grains. This includes potatoes, corn, pasta, rice or whole grain pasta.

Fruit and dairy/calcium-rich foods also have a place around the plate. These foods make good choices for snacks throughout the day. Additionally, fruit can substitute for some of the vegetables and starchy foods at some meals. Dairy or calcium-enriched soy can can substitute for some proteins in a meal, too. Fats such as oils or margarine should be used sparingly throughout the day.

The healthy meal plate should be used to help teens plan healthy meals without complicated calorie calculators or keeping strict track of specific food portions. It is a great guide to help keep your teen on a healthy eating path.

Sources:

The Great Plate. University of Michigan. March 28, 2009. http://michigantoday.umich.edu/2008/03/great-plate.php

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