Maintaining a healthy diet during the teen years is an important early step toward a healthy life--especially for teen girls, who are under enormous pressure to be model-thin. Whether you're looking to lose weight or simply feel better by eating right, a healthy diet plan will help keep you in shape and keep you from starvation diets that leave you weak and hungry.
Forget the Pills
Avoid diet pills. They are dangerous, and they don't work. Many are simply very powerful stimulants, or drugs that make your body burn more calories by speeding up your heart and other functions. People who take diet pills gain back the weight they lost very quickly.
Also, do not take Ritalin or Adderall as a way to lose weight. You may be taking these with a prescription to treat ADHD, but using these drugs as a weight-loss method is dangerous.
Eating a healthy breakfast will actually help you lose weight by getting your body working. Fruits such as apples, bananas and oranges are a great start; eggs are high in protein and low in calories (if you cook them in olive-oil spray); and a bowl of whole-grain cereal or oatmeal will keep you from feeling hungry. If cereal and oatmeal are boring for you, dress them up with cinnamon (but not cinnamon sugar), blueberries, bananas or strawberries.
Many teenagers drink soda for a caffeine kick in the morning. Soda is full of sugar, so steer clear of that. If you need a morning pick-me-up, try a cup of tea instead.
Eat A Snack
If you're at school, you may not be allowed to eat in class, but you probably can stash a healthy snack in your locker and eat it between classes. Fruit is best (but make sure to eat it on the same day you brought it.) Granola-type bars can be OK, but make sure they're low in sugar and don't have the word "hydrogenated" in the ingredients. Hydrogenated products are heavily processed and are terrible for your heart.
Snacks to stay away from include chips (even the ones that look healthy), cookies and candy bars. They pack a ton of calories and still leave you feeling hungry.
Make yourself a killer sandwich with whole-grain bread and lean meat such as chicken, turkey or tuna. (If you're having tuna, go with a mix that has very little mayonnaise.) Dress it with all the vegetables you can find--lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, olives--and top it off with mustard or hummus. Another piece of fruit, some raisins or almonds, or a low-fat yogurt all make for a great dessert.
Foods to avoid at lunch, especially if you're eating at a cafeteria, include french fries, pizza, chicken nuggets and nachos. These foods are OK once in a while, but eating them every day will make you gain weight and feel sluggish.
If you're headed off-campus for lunch, stay away from the burger chains and opt for a sandwich shop instead.
Eat Another Snack
Between lunch and dinner, eat another snack, such as a bag of carrots or light popcorn. Eating small meals throughout the day is much better for you than starving yourself and eating once or twice a day. It helps your body burn calories at a healthy rate (this process is called metabolism.)
Drink Lots of Water
Staying hydrated is a big part of a healthy diet, especially if you play sports. But even if you don't, you'll find that drinking water can keep you from feeling hungry. The human body often mistakes hunger for thirst, so if you stay hydrated, some of your hunger pangs may go away. Also, drinking water regularly helps you keep your metabolism healthy.
It is possible, though, to drink too much water. A good goal is to drink so that you never feel thirsty. If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated.
Keep yourself entertained. People overeat not because they're hungry, but because they're bored. For teenagers, life can get pretty boring--especially after school. Playing sports not only gives you the exercise you need, it also keeps you busy. If you don't like sports, play an instrument, join a club or find some other healthy way to engage in things that interest you.
Do Not Fear Food
Remember through all of this that eating does not make you fat--eating too much bad food makes you fat. Food is good for you, and it's something you should enjoy. As long as you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, cut back on sugar, and lay off on fried foods, fatty foods, and things like cookies, pizza and chips, you're good to go.
If You're a Vegetarian
Many girls choose during their teenage years not to eat meat. It is possible to have a healthy vegetarian diet, but you need to be careful that you're getting enough protein. Good sources of protein include eggs (especially egg whites), edamame (a cool Japanese vegetable that you pop out of pods) and tofu (which can take on the flavor of anything you cook with it.)
There are lots of reasons teenage girls should not drink--it's illegal and can lead to a whole lot of other trouble. But if you need more motivation than that, keep this in mind: Drinking kills every diet. Alcohol is full of calories (especially the sweet drinks that many girls like), and here's the worst part: When you drink, your body stops burning fat until it goes through all the calories from the alcohol.