Wolverine Well-being: Healthy Habits in Teens

Teens today find themselves in front of a TV screen, phone, or computer often. As screen time increases, activity level and healthy food consumed often declines.

    Woodgrove High School Physical Education Teacher Kathleen Jenkins gives some ideas that can help students eat healthy in simple, cost-effective ways: “Don’t eat out; this saves time and money. Drink lots of water; this helps you feel fuller, and buy fruits and veggies that are in season.” Eating whole foods allows for higher energy levels due to the healthy microbiome in the digestive system. Fueling your body in nutrient dense foods allows for a higher performance rate in both activity and everyday life. 

   MS, RDN Exercise Physiologist and Registered Dietitian Wendy Johnson says, “It is never too early to start healthy eating patterns. Starting healthy eating habits in your teenage years will support improvement in mental function and health while reducing risk for chronic disease later in life.  Incorporating plant based nutrition can support these goals.’’

   Building healthy rituals can seem intimidating, however it is less daunting if you think of whole foods that are low in preservatives and sugar. Johnson offers some easy meals that focus on nutrients to help shed light on how and what to eat. “Build a meal around a salad: Fill a bowl with salad greens such as romaine, kale, spinach, Bibb, or red leafy greens. Add other vegetables along with fresh herbs, seeds, nuts, beans, peas, or tofu.” Johnson also states that animal proteins are just as important as whole vegetables and fruit.

      Getting your body moving can not only help with your physical health, but it plays a large role in your mental health as well.  Jenkins says, “Starting young helps with muscle and bone development.  It also begins to create healthy habits and helps kids to socialize.  Movement in any form helps to stir up endorphins which in turn helps to reduce stress levels and has a calming effect.” Participating in some form of physical activity is also known to help reduce levels of stress, anxiety, and depression in teens. Johnson says, “Exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by releasing endorphins and other chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.”

   Sleep is also an essential component to health. Teens require between eight to ten hours of sleep a night. Students often find themselves glued to their phone at bedtime, getting on average four to six hours a night. 

    Nutrition, sleep, water intake, and whole foods all lead to the positive outcome of a healthy lifestyle and good mental health. Beginning a healthy journey can seem overwhelming, however making small changes in your life can create an avalanche of positive differences to a healthy mind and a healthy body.