Tween bodies grow at lightning speed, and they require certain nutrients to aid that development. Unfortunately, many tweens aren't getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals, or they're getting too much of a bad thing.
1. They're short on calcium.It's estimated that most tweens only receive half the daily recommended amount of calcium. Help your child choose calcium rich foods, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Tofu is also rich in calcium, as are calcium fortified orange juice and soy milk. Yogurt-based smoothies are a great way to encourage your child to consume calcium and fruit, and most tweens are more than capable of working a blender, with your supervision. To make a calcium rich smoothie, combine 1 cup of plain or vanilla yogurt with 1/2 cup of low fat milk, 1/2 cup of fruit (bananas, strawberries, or blueberries), and 1/4 cup of ice. Blend until smooth.
2. They consume too many calories.
The culprit here is juice, or sweet, sugary drinks. In fact, sweetened drinks are the largest source of added sugar in the diets of U.S. children. Offer your tween cold water or milk, instead. Make fresh fruit available, and scale back on snacks that offer little in the way of nutrition, such as chips, cookies, and cakes. Preteens need calories,
especially as they approach puberty or prepare for a growth spurt, so don't hold back on providing nutrition. Just be sure the foods you provide are nutrient-rich and avoid added sugars.
3. They don't eat whole grains.White bread rules the supermarket aisles. Switch to buying whole grain breads, and avoid refined grains, such as corn flakes, pastas, pretzels, white rice, and other refined, white bread products. Whole grains you should buy include wild rice, barley, and rolled oats. Incorporate using whole grains in your everyday cooking. Try brown rice instead of white rice, or opt for whole wheat macaroni or spaghetti. There are many whole wheat snack options available today, and they're pretty good, too. Offer toasted oat cereal as a snack or try whole grain snack chips.
4. They eat on the run.When you're busy, and hungry, you can't help but make nutritional errors. Tweens who run from activity to activity are likely to grab the first snack they see, and that snack may not be a healthy choice. Stock your pantry with healthy snack choices, and make sure your child can find these snacks easily. Also, be sure fruit and vegetable choices are washed and ready to go. Healthy snacks include fruit, nuts, yogurt, rice cakes, whole grain cereals, dried fruit, carrot sticks, celery sticks, peanut butter, and low-fat popcorn. Help your tween create a schedule that allows for down time, and regular meal gatherings with the rest of the family. Eating is a social function and families should make the most of that time together.
5. They don't know what they need.This may be the biggest mistake of all. Tweens should know what foods they should be eating, and avoiding. Educate your tween about making good choices, and work together to plan menus, or compile the family shopping list. In general, your preteen should consume approximately 1,800 calories per day, and should eat 6 ounces of grains (preferably whole wheat), 2 1/2 cups of vegetables, 1 1/2 cups of fruit, 3 cups of milk or dairy, and 5 ounces of beans or meat. Preteens are known for being picky eaters, and so it's often difficult to get the recommended amounts of food into his daily diet. If you think your child's diet is insufficient, ask your pediatrician about nutritional supplements.