Hey kids! You want to know: What's to eat? When are we going to eat? Can I eat this? These questions are asked millions of parents every day. You look to their parents for guidance and education. But if mom and/or dad are spending more time at work and less time in the kitchen, your chance for a good meal and good nutrition dies as soon as you can say, "Cheeseburger", "Pizza" or "Fried Chicken". Some of you may already have too much bulge around the waist or some of you may even have too little meat on your bones. No matter what you look like, you need to learn how to feed yourself the right stuff to stay healthy.
Let's start by talking about calories. What is a calorie in the first place? A calorie is just another name for energy. When a food item has a certain amount of calories, like 100 calories, that means that there are 100 bits of energy that you body can burn for fuel when you eat it. How much fuel, in other words, how many calories does your body need every day? That depends on your age and activity level. The bigger you are the more you need. And the more energy you burn by playing soccer, basketball, or just being busy, the more fuel you will need to keep going. But more important than the amount of calories you eat is the quality of calories that you eat. A high-calorie greasy meal at the local fast-food joint does not pack the same nutritional value for a healthy body as a high quality home-cooked meal that is based on whole, unprocessed foods (see Food Pyramid information below). When it comes to calories, more is not necessarily better; quality is what counts.
Excess calories, ones that your body does not burn, turn into fat for storage. The more fat you pack on, the heavier you get. Are you too heavy? Or... Are you too skinny? The best way to find out about what your ideal weight should be is by using something called the Body Mass Index (BMI) and the BMI chart. Your ideal weight changes according to your age, how tall you are, and your bone structure. After discovering if you are too heavy or too light for your age and height, you may decide that some changes in your eating habits are necessary. Whether you concentrate on losing or gaining weight, the key is to stay healthy by eating nutritiously.
Use the current food pyramid as your guide to nutrition. Each major food group is shown in the pyramid: grains, meat, vegetables, fruits, and milk. Within each group, there are foods to eat more of and foods to eat less of. In grains, you want to eat more whole grain, less white flour. In meat, you want to eat more lean meats, less fattening meats. In vegetables, you want a more colorful variety. In fruits, you want more fresh whole fruit, less juice. In milk, you want more fat-free, less full-fat dairy products. Today's food pyramid is not only a guide for nutrition but also a guide for total health because exercise is also shown on the pyramid (see the person climbing the stairs). With the proper amount of good nutrition and exercise, you can enjoy a healthy life with fewer problems. Now is the best time to start your healthy life habits.
And now it's time to tell your busy parents to wake up and smell the fruits and vegetables. Time to quit bring home the cheeseburgers, the pizzas, and the fried-chicken. You are an important member of the family that needs the right amount of quality energy to burn so that you can excel at whatever you want to do. When your parent does try to slip a bad meal into you, ask him/her this: "Would you put bad gas in our car? No? Then why do you feed me this crap?" Bottom-line: if you eat crap, then you will feel like crap.
Published On: September 06, 2010