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Your nutritional needs vary at this time, depending on your gender, age, height, weight, how fast you are growing and how active you are. This is a time of rapid growth both physically and mentally, and you will also be going through many hormonal and emotional changes. Your lifestyle might be changing as well - a different school, different family circumstances, leaving home, starting work or tertiary education. This kind of upheaval can mean you don’t eat regular meals and tend to live on snacks instead.

Guidelines for healthy growth and development

A variety of foods every day
Nutritious snacks
Plenty of fluids every day
Adequate mineral intake
Regular physical activity

A variety of foods each day

The healthy eating key: choose mostly eMarks 1 and 2, with some 3's - blue and green.

  • Eat at least 3 servings of vegetables and at least 2 servings of fruit each day. Try starting the day with a fruit smoothie - blend together ice, a pottle of yoghurt, 100ml of trim or lite milk, 50ml of orange juice and some fresh, tinned or frozen fruit like bananas, berries, plums, peaches, pears or nectarines.
  • Eat at least 6 servings of breads and cereals, pasta and rice each day, including some wholegrain and wholemeal varieties.
  • Eat at least 3 servings a day of milk, yoghurt and cheese, preferably low fat high calcium versions. Include a glass of milk, a smoothie or pottle of yoghurt for breakfast or add some low fat cheese such as Edam or cottage cheese to sandwiches.
  • Eat 1-2 servings of meat and alternatives each day. Choose from lean meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, dried beans, peas and lentils, tofu and other soy products.

Takeaways and convenience foods like pies, chips, pastries and pizzas are high in fat. Packing your own lunch or choosing alternatives such as sushi, salads or sandwiches, leaving out the high fat cheeses and mayonnaise, is much better for your health. Make takeaways an occasional treat or reduce the serving size by either downsizing, sharing it with a friend or skipping the side of fries and the soft drink. Using the eMark system as your guide will help you make the best choices.

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Nutritious snacks

Snacks are important to maintain constant energy levels, so choose the kind that offer plenty of nutritional value. Fruit makes a great “on the run” snack. A handful of nuts, a pottle of yoghurt or a fruit smoothie will keep you going between meals. If you must have a high fat or high sugar treat, eat a small amount and savour the taste! Remember to choose mostly eMarks 1 and 2, blue and green for longer lasting energy.

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Plenty of fluids every day

You should also drink plenty of plain water, rather than soft drinks and fruit juice, to quench your thirst. Squeeze a dash of lemon juice or add a splash of fruit juice to water for a bit of extra flavour.

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Adequate intake of important minerals

Iron is a carrier of oxygen around the body and is required for growth, and in females, to replace the blood lost through menstruation (periods). Low levels of iron in the blood can make you look pale and feel tired and lethargic. Eating 2 servings of meat and alternatives such as lean red meat, fish, chicken, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, dried beans, peas or lentils every day, and choosing wholegrain breads and cereals will help ensure you get enough iron from your food.

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth as well as the proper functioning of the heart, nerves and muscle contraction. Low calcium intake is associated with osteoporosis, meaning ‘porous’ or thin bones, which can lead to fractures later in life. The teenage years are critical for setting up peak bone mass to make sure that you have strong bones and teeth for many years to come.  Aim for at least 2-3 servings of milk, yoghurt and cheese, preferably low fat varieties. If you don’t don’t eat any milk or milk products, other important sources of calcium are calcium-fortified soy milk, canned fish (with bones), certain nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts, dried beans, peas, lentils and wholegrain breads and cereals.

If you are concerned about your food intake or weight, talk to your doctor or a dietitian.

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Regular physical activity

Physical activity is very important for a healthy lifestyle, and to help prevent you from becoming overweight. It doesn’t matter if you are not into organised sport or fitness activities - walking or cycling to school, university or work are great ways to fit in regular physical activity, and will save you money as well.

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