Young Men Should Eat Less Meat
According to a recent blog in the New York Times, teen boys are hungry all the time. We certainly don’t need a blog to tell us this. If you’re the mom of a teen boy you’ve probably ended up with an empty fridge or pantry thanks to a group of teens visiting your home. The recent updated Dietary Guidelines suggest that among the many foods teen boys eat, they may be eating too much meat.
Growing boys seek protein
Teen boys need to consume a fair amount of protein to support their growing muscle mass and to supply energy for physical activity. Boys in the U.S. typically eat a lot of red meat, processed meats, chicken (with the skin on) and eggs. Meats are often grilled and charred, or coated and fried, which adds “more unhealthy” elements to these animal-based, highly saturated food choices. Plant-based proteins and fish are not mainstays of their typical diet. Obesity experts and health experts are concerned since this type of a western diet is linked to gaining excess weight, as well as being a risk factor for cancer and heart disease.
Growing teens are not meeting dietary goals
A male teen’s insatiable appetite is often not satisfied with quick grabs of fast food. They tend to binge on big meals and the nature of the foods they choose can cause blood sugar spikes, followed by blood sugar plummeting, which in turn leads to a desire for more food. Rarely do they eat meals filled with fiber, which would help to keep them satiated for longer periods of time. Both girl and boy teens eat limited fruits and vegetables.
Teens do seem to be eating more protein than is considered healthy, with a big uptick of protein consumption during ages 9-13 and again through early to mid-adulthood years. Unfortunately, most of the research looking at teen food patterns covers female eating patterns (weight loss and eating disorders). The Dietary Guidelines suggest that teen boys should eat more vegetables and fruit, and the intent was to have them swap out some of their unhealthy protein choices for plant-based proteins, fish, and fruits and vegetables.
Male teens gravitate to protein
Teen boys typically want to bulk up and build more muscle mass, so they gravitate to protein as a major part of their diet. If these boys eat excess protein they are also likely getting extra calories, fat and even sugar, since bread is usually part of that hot dog or burger. High protein shakes and smoothies are also a popular part of the male teen diet, and again, they are loaded with sugar, fat and protein.
Getting teens to understand nutrition
Male teens need to realize the value of choosing appropriate portions of lean meat proteins, fish, eggs, beans and legumes, and include low fat and fat free dairy sources as well. They also need to increase consumption of vegetables and fruit. Protein powders should be consumed cautiously and they should be secondary to food sources of protein. With all the attention given to girls and their food issues, it’s important to remember that boys also have image issues that directly influence their food choices.
Programs like HealthCorps, which include lesson plans focused on nutrition education, can help to guide teen girls and boys to embrace healthier dietary patterns.