We tell our kids that junk food isn’t good for them, but it’s not just bad for their bodies—a new study shows it’s bad for their spirits, too. A new study reports that there’s a definite link in the food choices of adolescents and symptoms of depression.
The study identifies two main kind of teenage eaters—those called “western” and “healthy.” Western diets are high in red meat, refined foods and fast foods, and sweets. Healthy diets are high in fish, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.
Here’s the link they found: Western diets lead to overweight teenagers (those a with high body mass index) in whose bodies there is an increased amount of inflammation. The study, which interviewed 1000 teenagers at age 14 and then later at age 17, saw a link between those teenagers with Western eating habits and depression.
This study is important because it shows a biological link between what a teenager eats and his or her mental health. The types of problems the teenagers reported were physical symptoms, social problems, withdrawal, anxiety, and depression.
So how can you encourage your teenager to eat more healthy foods? Although you don’t have control over what they eat away from home, you can control what you have available in your home. One factor could be the amount of processed or fast food you bring into the house. If you don’t buy it, it’s not there to eat.
It’s tempting when we have busy schedules to resort to a drive through. One possible solution is buying a slow cooker and asking friends for favorite teen-friendly recipes. (It doesn’t take much longer to prep the ingredients than it does to drive to a fast food restaurant for takeout.) Here are some ideas: Spaghetti sauce made with ground turkey; vegetable-rich soups (serve with low fat cheese or peanut butter and whole grain rolls); chicken and brown rice dishes; barbecue turkey or chicken.
Fish may be a challenge, but tabletop grills (like George Forman) lined with aluminum foil, sprayed with cooking spray to cook individually frozen fish steaks means no cleanup. Fish tacos (grilled fish with salsa and packaged slaw mix on tostada shells) are easy this way. Look online for other easy ways to incorporate fish into your household eating habits if you need ideas.
Keeping a full fruit basket on the table helps, too (buy whatever is on sale that week.)