Beth Kunkel: Overweight Teens

Beth Kunkel, PhD, R.D., Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition

We also had a viewer request how to help adolescents with weight control. Adolescents are really difficult in weight management and weight control. We know we have a lot more adolescents that are overweight than we have had before. They’re going through a lot of physical changes as well as a lot of emotional changes so we have to tread really very lightly when working with adolescents in trying to help with controlling their weight. We need to make it easy for them to be active so they are working off calories. We need to make it easy for them to make appropriate food choices. This is the time where they are learning how and they are taking control of more of what and how much they eat. It’s an opportunity for us to make sure we’ve taught them basic concepts of portion sizes, that we’ve taught them principles of selecting a healthy diet rather than our selecting the foods they eat or their gate keepers or care givers. If I look at these bagels at a nutrition view point this is an equivalence of about two servings of what we would consider a grain or a bread product, perhaps three. So its fine to have these foods, but if I’m going to buy them in bulk or regular packages I need to make sure I’ve taught my adolescent what is an adequate portion size. Some of that is getting easier if you look at now we can buy a lot of foods in a 100 calorie portion pack so you can eat the whole thing or pack the whole thing in a lunch. We also should be thinking about helping adolescents learn how to prepare foods and how to construct and plan healthy foods themselves. So whether we’re buying frozen meals having those available so the child can put them in the microwave heat them up very easily or we can also start teaching things instead of having them heat it up, let them make pizza.