Many preteens have problems in keeping up with the energy needs of their bodies and thus, become or remain underweight. The main reasons being that, they may be growing tall quite fast, or would be indulging in a lot of physical exercise or simply have a high metabolism rate.
In the preteen and teen years, a child demands and consumes more food energy than any other phase of life. As these years are crucial from the point of view of growth and development of the kid’s body, it is essential that he should not remain underweight. To achieve this, the trick is to help him follow a balanced diet. You must increase his food intake but not with unhealthy or junk food. He should be given ‘high on energy’ healthy food items.
Underweight Children at Risk of Medical Complications
Many a times, underweight preteens lack proper nutrition intake. He may not be consuming enough minerals, vitamins, dietary fat or protein. These can impact his immunity and put him at risk of many diseases. Also, in case of a girl preteen, underweight body can affect the menstrual cycle. Irregular or lack of periods can be due to low estrogen levels which can further lead to loss of bone mass. This condition may put your tween girl at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis in her later years.
Balanced Diet for Preteens
It is essential for parents to understand the importance of a balanced diet, for increasing the body weight of an under weight kid. Unduly increasing the carbohydrates or fats in the diet, in the attempt to increase his weight, will only do more harm than good. Given below are a few examples of what can be included in the diet.
- Starchy carbohydrates like pastas, potatoes and rice. These form the base of every meal.
- Lean proteins like pulses, beans, egg, fish and meat
- 3 portions of fruit and veggies per day. Bananas help to gain some weight.
- Unsaturated fats like fish liver, cod liver oil
- Grilled and baked products instead of fried food
- Natural fruit, vegetable juices and milkshakes instead of soft drinks
- Chocolates and sweets occasionally
Meals for Preteens at Home
Sit down and think about the food your family eats. Do you feel that your meal is right for the entire family or do you eat unhealthy snacks for quick fixes? Some mistakes which we don’t pay much attention to, add up to the reason why your child could be underweight and unhealthy today.
Make your family sit together and eat breakfasts or dinner; any mealtime for that matter will suffice the purpose. Cook from scratch and don’t rely on ready-to-cook stuff. Use home-made healthy alternatives if your preteen craves for junk food. There are innumerable recipes for making baked veggies, healthy pizzas and pastas at home. You can make certain changes such as:
- Add full cream milk instead of skimmed milk. It can be used for breakfast with cereals or at night.
- Use healthy oils like olive and canola for cooking. Also add lots of nuts in salads, dishes and other items.
- Try to increase the serving portion with every meal.
Lunch for Preteens
During school time, try to monitor what your child has for lunch and help him to choose what’s good for him:
- Give your child packed lunch made at home, rather than giving money to buy the meal.
- Packed lunches provide nutritionally balanced lunch. Sandwiches with fillings of lean meat, eggs, tuna or cheese offers carbohydrates and protein.
- Quiche and pasta salads are tasty and can be substituted for sandwiches.
- Make stuffed vegetable Parathas. They almost never fail to please the kids.
- Milkshakes, yogurt or a small cube of cheese could be good for calcium.
- Liquids are must and can be incorporated as plain water or as fruit juice.
Snacks for Preteens
Young children need to keep eating snacks in between as their stomach isn’t large enough to gulp down a large quantity at once. Break down the intake of food, and allow your child to consume calories in 3-4 meals. Provide healthy snacks rather than some quick get-away. Here are a few examples:
- Dried fruits are high on calories and quite filling too. They offer healthy fatty acids required for cell-building.
- Sandwiches stuffed with protein, like meats, eggs and cheese
- Cheese on wholemeal or brown bread
- A bowl full of yogurt
- Cereal with milk as a bedtime snack
- Bananas and avocados for energy
So there you go, you have information that is enough for you to help your tween follow a balanced diet and see him gain weight in a healthy manner.