The Powerful Results of Nutrition Education on Teen Mental Health
It’s widely known that nutrition plays a key role in your physical health, but it also plays a fundamental role in your mental and emotional well-being. After all, it makes perfect sense that the foods we eat have just as much of an effect on our brains as they do on the rest of our bodies. It may sound simple, but a great, simple way to improve your mood is to maintain a well-balanced diet that contains a variety of health-promoting nutrients. Healthy eating during adolescence is especially important as body changes during this time affect an individual’s nutritional and dietary needs.
Convenience is one of the main reasons some kids and teens develop poor eating habits. Fast food is much easier, more accessible, and thought to be cheaper than going home and making a healthy meal. However, it’s important to fit healthy habits into a teenager’s fast-paced, everyday life. Teens with higher levels of stress, depression, and anxiety may try to cope by turning to their favorite comfort foods: ice cream, pastries, pizza, and hamburgers. Recent studies suggest that the high-fat, high-sugar foods we so often crave in times of stress or sadness are the least likely to benefit our mental health. Processed foods that taste and feel good in the moment are only a temporary fix to a much larger mental health issue. Eating only junk food can become a habit that’s hard to break, gradually wreaking havoc on the body and mind.
The best way to maintain a healthy diet is to eat a variety of nutritious foods in the right amount. You can do this by consuming more fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein as well as drinking water instead of sugary drinks like soda, juice, and energy drinks. Switching out fruit snacks for real fruit is an easy example of a healthy alternative.
At Elevations, we understand that it’s vital to establish healthy habits and nutritional eating patterns long before youth reach adulthood or begin to live independently. To help establish healthy eating patterns, our program consults with a registered dietitian. Our dietitian meets individually with students that are identified as at risk or have nutritional needs. Working one-on-one with our students helps them set goals, discuss what those goals look like, and plan how to reach them. Our healthy eating specialty group meets once per week to address different topics such as body positivity, positive eating experiences, healthy snacks, and understanding ingredient labels through field trips to grocery stores.
Most of our dietician’s job is dedicated to listening. Our students feel heard and understood when it comes to their nutritional goals, greatly supporting their progress toward achieving a healthy lifestyle. When students eat well, they are supporting their mental and physical health from the inside out. Healthy diets positively influence energy levels, opening opportunities for more social involvement while relieving mental stress. Having the right amount of protein, fruit, and vegetables in a teenager’s diet is vital to getting essential nutrients into their body to help their brains and bodies develop properly. Establishing healthy patterns at a young age provides a foundation to build upon for a healthier future.