Fruits and veggies offer teens fuel for the fire
BY JESSICA PENNER
Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, September / October 2012
The findings hardly come as a surprise.
According to the Canadian Community
Health Survey, more than half of all teenagers
eat less than five servings of fruit and
vegetables a day. That's well under the seven
or eight servings a day recommended by
Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide.
What might be surprising is that the lack
of fruit and vegetable consumption does
not appear to be a result of poor nutritional
education. Nutrition quizzes show that teens
know exactly what healthy eating should
Why then are teens not eating as they
know they should be?
A study conducted in Minnesota by Mary
Story and Michael Resnick explored the
issues preventing kids from making nutritious
choices. The three main reasons identified by
teens themselves were: busyness, laziness,
and the view that healthy eating is something
they'll only need to worry about later in life.
Teens tend to feel invincible, and thinking
about long-term health benefits is for people
who are not invincible. Teens generally
require clear, short-term benefits in order to
motivate them to work proper nutrition into
their schedules. In other words, they need to
be shown how healthy eating can help them
live their life the way they want today.
What some teenagers fail to realize is that
eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can
make a difference to their lives right now.
This is because fruits and vegetables:
- Provide energy. Fruits and vegetables
contain many B vitamins, which are
needed as co-enzymes in many energyproducing
pathways. As long as the body
has enough, it'll produce all the energy it
needs. Adding extra won't perk teens up,
but they will notice a lack of energy if they
- Are great sources of fibre, which can
help reduce hunger pangs. This prevents
overeating, which prevents obesity. An
apple a day will provide five grams of
fibre. The goal for fibre is 26 grams for teen
females and 30 to 38 grams for teen males.
- Are often high in Vitamin C, which can
help reduce the duration of a cold. Vitamin
C is abundant in citrus fruits, mangoes, red
peppers, and strawberries.
- Contain other nutrients needed for healthy
hair. Beta-carotene, a precursor for
Vitamin A found in bright orange fruits
and vegetables, is needed to produce
sebum, nature's hair conditioner.
- Can promote radiant skin. A recent
study, conducted by lead researcher Ross
Whitehead at the University of St. Andrew's
and involving college kids, found that
increasing fruit and vegetable intake by one
serving a day resulted in healthier looking
skin after only six weeks. The carotenoids
in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables,
such as watermelon and spinach, are
thought to be responsible for this outcome.
Clearly, there are important benefits
to eating a healthy diet. So, if you are a
teenager looking to enhance your overall
health and well-being, why not try to boost
your intake of fruits and vegetables? You may
be surprised by the results.
Jessica Penner is a registered dietitian with the Winnipeg Health Region.
Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.
Read the September / October 2012 issue of Wave