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Building Healthy Habits: Nutrition & Lifestyle Tips for Teens & Young Adults

Navigating social media and misinformation


Young adults or teens enjoying food

In today's digital age, social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram are filled with influencers offering health and nutrition advice. While some of this advice may be well-intentioned, much of it is inaccurate and potentially harmful. It can be difficult to confirm someone's credentials, their experience or even their agenda.


As a Nutritional Therapist, I've seen first hand the dangers of misinformation, especially for young and impressionable individuals. I have come across a few young ladies who have been following influencers and their fad diets, drinking a lot of energy drinks and eating energy bars rather than eating proper meals. While we can't do much about these people on social media, we can at least support young adults and teenagers and understand their vulnerabilities.


Understanding adolescence

Adolescence is a critical period of development, extending into the early 20s. The adolescent brain is still undergoing significant changes, making young people more susceptible to external influences. Alongside ongoing physical, social, and emotional changes, adolescents are more vulnerable to mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. This vulnerability emphasises the importance of being careful with the information you're exposed to. Misinformation, particularly regarding nutrition and body image, can have detrimental effects on mental and physical health, potentially leading to the development of eating disorders.


Obviously, we don't want to see young people experience mental health issues or develop disordered eating habits. Therefore, going back to basics is important and I always believe it's about healthy habits and the environment.


Environment and social pressures

Young adults and teenagers often face social pressures related to body image and food choices. It's important to remind them that everyone's body is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach to health. Encourage them to focus on how they feel rather than how they look, and to surround themselves with supportive friends and family.

Where they are following influencers, encourage them to check their credentials, and can they relate to them. Or, do they have an agenda, often they're promoting some product or food and so maybe their intentions are not completely objective. It's good to get kids to question from an early age as they are subjected to so much in this social media world. But also being mindful and appreciating we are all different and so different foods, diets and lifestyles will have a different impact on everyone, it's about understanding your own body and how it works. I believe this is a skill kids are not taught or encouraged but it can be key.


Building healthy habits for life

Parents play a crucial role in teaching their children about nutrition and health. By modelling healthy eating habits and creating a positive food environment at home, parents can set their children up for lifelong success. Which is why I always encourage parents to involve their children in meal planning and preparation, and to make nutritious foods readily available.


Screen time

Excessive screen time, whether it's on smartphones, tablets, computers, or TVs, can have negative effects on both physical and mental health. Spending too much time in front of screens can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle which can contribute to weight gain and obesity. It can also affect sleep, the blue light emitted by screens can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to poor quality sleep and fatigue, which in turn could also lead to unhealthy snacking or mindless eating. Over time this could all impact mental health and increase the risk of anxiety, depression, and social isolation, especially in teenagers.


To mitigate these effects, encourage teens and young adults to set limits, or as a parent you can suggest tech-free zones or hours. Encouraging physical activity, ideally at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Encourage outdoor activities and hobbies that don't involve screens and maybe do this as a family. Be mindful of snacking, specially mindless snacking while using screens and opt for healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, nuts, or yogurt instead.


So, what are the basics of healthy eating?

Let's start with understanding that what you eat can impact not only your physical health but also your mental well-being. Research has shown a strong connection between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis. Your gut health plays a significant role in regulating mood, stress levels, and even cognitive function. But the gut can also be influenced by lifestyle and the following are my fundamentals -


  1. Whole, unprocessed foods: Focus on eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats should form the foundation of diets.

  2. Balanced meals: Aim for balanced meals that include a combination of proteins, fats and ideally unrefined carbohydrates. This helps stabilise blood sugar levels and keeps you feeling satisfied.

  3. Portion control: Pay attention to portion sizes and listen to the body's hunger and fullness cues. Avoid restrictive eating patterns or skipping meals, as this can lead to unhealthy habits.

  4. Balance with the 80/20 rule: Strive for balance by following the 80/20 rule. This means that 80% of the time, focus on nutrient-dense foods that nourish the body, while allowing treats or less healthy options 20% of the time. Remember, it's all about balance, not deprivation. And with this balance comes moderation, so there's no need to completely eliminate any food group or label foods as "good" or "bad."

  5. Meal times as family time: Make meal times enjoyable by sitting down together as a family. Use this time to connect, interact, and share stories. Creating a positive atmosphere around meals can encourage healthier eating habits and strengthen family bonds.

  6. Mindful eating: Practice mindful eating by paying attention to food choices, eating slowly, and savouring each bite. This can help prevent overeating and promote a healthier relationship with food.

  7. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and support the body.


Seeking professional help

If young adults or teenagers are struggling with disordered eating behaviours or body image issues, it's important for them to seek professional help. Encourage them to talk to a trusted adult, such as a parent, teacher, or healthcare provider, who can connect them with the appropriate resources and support.


Work with me

As a Nutritional Therapist, my goal is to empower you with the knowledge and tools you need to make informed choices about your health. Together, we'll explore your health goals, any symptoms, current eating habits, identify areas for improvement, and develop practical strategies to help you achieve your health goals. By scheduling a 1-2-1 consultation with me you will walk away with a personalised nutrition plan tailored to your unique needs and that works for you.


Ready to get started? Contact me to schedule your free 30-min consultation here or book one of my packages.

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