The physical health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables are well established. People who eat an overall healthful diet higher in fruits and vegetables may reduce their risk for heart disease and protect against certain types of cancers. There’s also growing evidence that people who eat more produce have better mental health as well.
It’s been found that teens are well aware of the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. However, teens often believe they’re invincible and show little interest in securing long-term health benefits. They need to see clear-cut, short-term benefits in order to increase their produce intake.
Help teens identify benefits that affect their lives now, such as the following:
Radiant Skin: What teen doesn’t want clear, healthy skin? Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption can, in fact, help improve teen’s skin. A recent study by researcher Ross Whitehead, PhD, at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, found that increasing fruit and vegetable intake by one serving a day resulted in healthier-looking skin after only six weeks.
Shiny, Healthy Hair: Shiny hair is healthy hair. Teens may be excited to learn that essential omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12, and iron all help prevent a dry scalp and dull hair color, while dark green vegetables contain high amounts of vitamins A and C, which help with the production of sebum and provide a natural hair conditioner. On the other hand, dietary deficiencies, such as those found in restrictive weight loss diets, can cause hair loss.
Energy for Sports: Nutrition is an important part of sport performance for young athletes. Active teens need the boost they get from fruits and vegetables to enhance their energy and finish strong. Teens can fuel before practice with produce-packed snacks such as dried fruit, veggies and hummus, trail mix, and 100% juice.
Healthy Teeth: A smile goes a long way. The greatest need for calcium is during late childhood and the teenage years; however, most teens don’t get enough calcium. Educate teens on proper intake of high-calcium foods. While dairy is high in calcium, so are fruits and vegetables including oranges, orange juice, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
Happiness and Improved Mental Well-Being: The Produce for Better Health Foundation has monitored emerging research on the correlation between higher fruit and vegetable intakes and higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness. Researchers concluded that there’s an association between mental well-being and fruit and vegetable consumption; happiness and mental health increase as the daily number of fruits and vegetable servings increase.
By appealing to the very things that are of importance to teens, we can help them better meet their dietary requirements and therefore improve their nutrition status while helping them feel better about themselves.
— Jodi Danen, RDN, is the founder of the family nutrition site Create Kids Club, a food blog for busy parents who desire healthful family meals but are short on time. Jodi is a nutrition communications specialist, food writer, and brand ambassador along with being a food photographer and videographer for her website along with bloggers and brands.