Good, healthy and balanced nutrition is fundamental to maintain a healthy weight, build a strong immune system and ensure optimal bodily functions. Knowing what to eat and drink will guide you in your meal planning, ensuring you consume the required foods your body needs.

Unfortunately, like most things in life, every person cannot eat and be happy with the same set-standard diet.

Not only do we all have different preferences for foods we like or dislike, we also have cultures, religion, moral views and experiences that inform our daily diets. The moment you add different life stages to the mix, or someone’s age, the skill to create the right meal plan becomes even trickier.

Nutrition and what is healthy for an elderly person, might not be ideal for an adult, teenager or toddler. 

This article will focus on two different age groups and how nutrition and diet should be adapted to answer their bodies’ requirements as based on their related lifestyle and development phase.

We’ll look at healthy eating for a teenager and compare that to healthy eating for the elderly. So, whether you are looking after your parents, or want your kids to be smart and healthy, we’ll guide you in how best you can tweak their diet to ensure they get maximum nutrition and vitality.

Healthy food is good
Healthy food can be tasty too; you just have to help them discover the nourishing meals that they like  - Image by Ella Olsson on Pexels
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Healthy Eating for Teens

Teens can be tricky… You have to deal with puberty, mood swings, rebellion and every that comes together with this confusing stage of their lives. The best you can do as a parent is create a stable environment with all the guidance, love and support to make this time as easy as possible. One of those things that will help is providing them with good nutrition to support biological development, weight management and mental health.

One of the biggest reasons why want to eat everything they get their hands on, is a lack of nutrients or healthy food in their diet. Unhealthy snacks like chips, chocolates, sugary drinks, or even loads of breakfast cereal are used to fill the gap, but this fulfilment is only temporary as their bodies still have unfulfilled nutritional needs.

It’s ok for teens to eat those tasty, unhealthy snacks, as long as it’s in moderation.

Helping your young adult establish good eating patterns and a healthy relationship with food will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Try not to be dictatorial when approaching your teens’ diet, they need to feel empowered as they discover the joy in healthy food and understand that great tasting food can also include correct and nutritious options.

Here are some important aspects to consider when seeking the right nutrition for a teenager:

  • Ensure you cater for every meal and get them to understand the importance of regular eating to curb cravings. They shouldn’t skip meals as it makes it easier and more probable to grab the nearest, unhealthy snack
  • Limit their intake of unhealthy sugars, saturated fats, salts and refined processed foods. These not only cause fluctuations in blood sugar, but it will also impact their performance in school and their overall health in the long run
  • Teach them the importance of getting enough water. The sufficient intake is around eight glasses of water per day, but it might be more if they engage in a lot of physical activity during the day
  • Get them on-board and ensure they understand the benefits of healthy eating and how it can impact them
  • Plan ahead by creating healthy snack options. Include fruits they like and research energy packed snacks like a trail mix, date balls or peanut butter

Regular exercise is also a fundamental cornerstone of teenage health. Ensure they get enough exercise and get them away from that PlayStation. Today’s teens experience a lot of pressure and physical activity will not only help them reduce stress and anxiety, it’ll also aid in managing their weight and mental health.

What is a healthy teenage diet? To keep your teen’s growth optimal and set each day up for success, you can also ensure they get the following key nutrients in their diet:

  • Every person, especially growing teenagers should get at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily. You know what they like and dislike, but see how you can incorporate a wide variety of vegetables into your overall meal plans
  • Whole grains provide energy for these busy bodies, but also a lot of fibre that is necessary for healthy digestion
  • Protein are the building blocks for healthy muscular and organ functions. There are plenty of protein options available to spruce up any meal, including lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs or vegan options like lentils, nuts and tofu
  • Iron is critical for teen development. Beans, peas, spinach, beef or even fortified cereals provide a good helping to supplement these needs.
  • Healthy fats, like omega oils, are necessary for their brain function and you can aid them in their exams by providing the correct nutrition. Ensure however that you limit their intake of unhealthy, saturated fats

If your child is overweight there might be a variety of reasons, including depression. Approach them and their diet in a mindful, loving and considerate way and guide them like adults in their eating behaviours while finding ways to address the core of the problem.

Teens with complexities around their health have special needs when it comes to nutrition. A young adult that is intolerant to gluten, prefer vegan meals, have immune deficiencies or any other chronic diseases require specific nutritional replacements if they cannot consume the required foods. Be sure you consult a dietician or healthcare professional in this instance.

Brain food
Your teen enters a phase of massive physical changes during puberty which means they have different nutritional needs - Image by Julia M Cameron on Pexels

What is a Healthy Diet for an Elderly Person?

As we grow older, our metabolism starts to slow down and we have to adjust our daily diet to remain healthy. A lot of elderly people start to struggle with digestion, they tend to become less active and also get set in their very specific way of eating.

Every one of us wants to age well and there’s a lot of current research around how you keep your body healthy, for longer. Dietary requirements and physical activities might not necessarily guarantee you grow older, they will just ensure that you are happier, more mobile and less disease-prone as you age.

There’s a new focus on ageing well; maintaining the healthy functioning of your mind and body.

Physical activity is fundamental if you want to age well and even taking a 30 minute walk or doing simple yoga stretching will ensure better cardiovascular health, digestion and overall mobility.

It is recommended that elderly try and engage in physical activity five times a week as this will help reduce the risk of conditions like Diabetes, Cholesterol, Blood pressure to only mention a few. A lot of times they need a bit of encouragement to do so, so attempt to create a social aspect around those daily walks or incorporate some form of reward to keep them going.

There’s also a slight shift towards increasing certain core nutrients and minerals our bodies need as we grow older. The elderly require higher levels of Fibre, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Calcium to ensure optimal digestion and bone density.

Remember that they might be traditional in their views, and some even stubborn about what they eat, but you have to ensure they get sufficient amounts of the following foods:

  • Leafy Greens
  • Lean Meats
  • Oily Fish
  • Dairy (or an equivalent)
  • Fortified Cereals
  • A good variety of other vegetables

Elderly people also have to deal with challenges of their own. They might be home alone, might be less mobile, possibly not interested or afraid of the outside world and a lot of elderly have a lack of funds. These are core reasons why they cannot always get up to cook a proper nutritional diet.

You can help them by cooking some healthy meals in batches and freezing them which makes it easier for them to eat better daily. You can also consult with a nutritionist who will help you with meal ideas that are healthy and convenient.

Ageing well
You can help your parents by providing proper guidance around their nutrition, helping them to age happy and well - Image by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Core Fundamentals as You Learn About Teen Nutrition and Elderly Diets

 One thing is for certain, regardless of your age or lifestyle, any person should stick to some basics around nutrition and lifestyle to ensure they are healthy which includes:

  • Regular Exercise
  • Limitations around unhealthy processed foods and sugars
  • Sticking to a well-balanced diet with healthy ingredients

The level and intensity around the application of these principles will change according to the stage of life you find yourself in. In a similar way when you look at your family’s diet you’ll have to adjust and tweak it to try and achieve the following:

  • The right mix of foods, balancing carbohydrates, fats, proteins, macro and micronutrients
  • The correct combinations of various foods
  • The right quantities
  • The addition of supplements and multivitamins
  • Introducing greater variety in your diet
Yoga for all ages
Yoga is the ideal exercise for all ages. Get a professional to guide you if you have old injuries or are new to it - Image by Anna Shvets on Pexels

Ask The Experts

Like any other human, your teen or elderly parent’s dietary needs are just as unique as they are. These nutritional foundations, together with other research, will only get the fundamentals in-place for a healthy diet. You’ll have to learn and adapt these then according to their personal tastes and needs.

If you have any doubts, special nutritional needs or are looking for great meal plans, you can contact one of the Superprof Nutrition tutors.

They can educate you around the foundations of good nutrition while putting together a custom diet that suits your age, activity levels and dietary needs.  They will also guide you on how best to read food labels and identifying the right foods for your body.

We salute you for placing priority on the health your loved ones. Now go on and create happy and healthy bodies by providing the nutrition they need.

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Mauritz

Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.