Food provides your body energy. Eating well is important for balancing your energy levels.
Your diet is crucial when it comes to keeping your body healthy, including helping to keep you at a healthy weight.
These are all important factors when you’ve got a busy, demanding life. But eating well can be easier said than done. With so much advice out there it can be difficult to know what to listen to. Our easy tips could help you to stay on track.
Mental health and healthy eating
As a young person, your body is going through many physical and mental changes. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help your body to grow and develop properly – and support your mental health, too. Here’s some important ways to stay on-track:
The best way to keep your body healthy is to eat three balanced meals a day, plus snacks as needed.
Please speak to someone you trust, such as a parent, GP or teacher before making any changes to your current eating.
If you often feel run down, you may be low on iron. Teenage girls lose iron during their period, so it’s important to boost your iron levels. Try red meat, breakfast cereals fortified with iron, dark green veg like kale and wholegrains. Vitamin C helps you absorb iron, so drink a glass of orange juice at the same time too.
Vitamin D is really important for your body. You can get it from certain foods such as oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks and fortified breakfast cereals, but most of our Vitamin D comes from the sun. Slap some sunscreen on if it’s a sunny day and enjoy some fresh air.
It's good to talk
Sometimes you’re in charge of what you eat (e.g. at school) and sometimes someone else is choosing for you. Have a look at our starting conversations page for help with discussing healthy eating with friends and parents. It might even help them to feel healthier and happier too.
5 top tips for feeling great
- Eat three meals per day. Don’t skip breakfast! Studies show it helps to keep you healthy.
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water every day to feel more alert.
- Try to eat five portions of fruit and veg every day.
- Think about swapping sugary snacks for energy-boosters like dried fruit, nuts or a fruit smoothie.
- Include carbohydrates, protein and some fats in each meal to give your body the right amount of energy and nutrients.
Awake and hydrate! Start your day with a big glass of water to feel refreshed and replace fluids lost overnight.
Try an energy-boosting carbohydrate like porridge or brown toast with your favourite topping, e.g. sliced banana and peanut butter.
A balanced lunch might be something like a chicken salad, an egg sandwich, cheese, hummus and pitta breads or a baked potato with beans.
Need an energy boost? Sunflower seeds, walnuts and almonds all have omega 3 fatty acids which can help to improve your concentration. Try a small handful once a day. Don't forget to drink more water! Cereal bars, flapjacks or a piece of fruit are also great snacks!
Enjoy a balanced meal, such as spaghetti bolognese with some protein such as meat or Quorn (e.g. mince), carbohydrates (we like wholewheat spaghetti) and vegetables (carrots and courgettes work well).
The super-powered food groups
Food is split into different groups. Some of these groups can boost our energy levels, support our brain and help us feel even better, so it’s really beneficial to eat a range of them every day. That means trying to eat all of them, not just your favourites…
Your brain’s main source of fuel is glucose, which it gets from foods that contain carbohydrates. If there’s not enough fuel, your brain won’t function properly.
Good choices: Brown bread, pasta, rice, unsalted rice cakes and porridge oats all contain carbohydrates that your body breaks down slowly, giving you fuel for the day.
Your brain receives messages from around your body and the messengers are made from protein. Not eating enough protein can make you feel low, weak or worried, so it’s important to eat protein regularly.
Good choices: Meat without much fat such as chicken or turkey, tuna, mackerel, white fish, eggs, cheese, peas, beans and lentils, soya products, nuts and seeds.
Your brain is 60% fat, so eating the right fats can make a big difference. Omega 3 fatty acids can improve your concentration and support your mental health.
Good choices: Oily fish such as tinned sardines and mackerel, chicken, nuts, olive and sunflower oils, seeds, avocados, whole milk, natural yoghurt, cheese and eggs.
Fruit and vegetables
As well as containing important vitamins, minerals and fibre to help you stay fuller for longer, some fruits and vegetables are a great brain food that helps you concentrate and can even help your memory.
Good choices: Tomatoes, mushrooms and bananas are great for concentration. All veg is good for you, so eat a rainbow of colours – green peppers, yellow bananas etc.
Substituting foods can be an easy way to eat more healthily. Try looking at Change 4 Life food swaps for some inspiration.