Be sure that the family food environment has mostly healthy foods available for everyone.

Helping teens maintain a healthy weight

Healthy Family Teen

Most of us are completely aware of the health risks of obesity – from an increased risk for high blood pressure and strokes to the clogging of artery walls to cancer cell initiation it behooves us to stay at a healthy weight throughout our lifetime.

An interesting study from Sweden found that overweight teens may up their risk for bowel cancer when they hit the middle years some 35 years later.

The scoop on this Swedish study:  240,000 young men were followed for 35 years, at which time 885 had developed bowel cancer.

A BMI over 30 in the teen years increased risk for colon and rectal cancers. Another discovery from this study was the obese teens had higher markers of inflammation, an additional risk for bowel cancer.  

This study clarifies that excess weight early on in life can have a major health impact in later years. Every single week I have obese teens come into my office for nutrition counseling, and many of them already have adult health issues – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, painful joints, etc.

With a supportive family, obese teens can make changes to be healthier:

  • Let go of high calorie sweet sodas and sports drinks and replace with water or milk
  • Eat more meals that are prepared at home
  • Back down on high calorie teen favorites such as burgers, fries and pizza
  • Enjoy activities such as family walks, hiking, biking and swimming

The first step is to have a good discussion about the family diet with all family members present; perhaps this summer is the perfect time to begin making some lifestyle changes as a family.

Family-friendly, healthy recipes to try:

  • Whole-Grain Breakfast Pancakes
  • Italian-Style Veggie Dip Lemon
  • Sugar Snap Peas

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.