High school teachers are noticing a trend in their students. It’s not a new fashion statement or odd dance move. It’s the rise of alternative diets.
“Teens are so connected to social media, and it’s really fascinating what celebrity endorsements will do,” says Megan Armstrong, R.D., a dietitian with Fit4Allkids
at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “When celebrities talk about what they are doing on social media, teenagers see it and adopt it because they want to look or be like them. Teachers have noticed and are concerned.”
Through partnerships between the hospital and Pinellas County Schools, Armstrong works with both teens and physical education teachers to provide the latest in nutrition education.
Here are the top diet trends among teenagers and the things you can do today to live a healthier lifestyle:
A vegan or vegetarian lifestyle based on a balanced diet can have plenty of health benefits. However, many people who choose this route are not necessarily incorporating more vegetables and fruit into their meals. The elimination of major food groups can lead to deficiencies in protein and certain vitamins and minerals like:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
Vegetarians are less at risk than vegans for nutrient deficiencies because some may still eat dairy, eggs or fish; however, many teens choose things like macaroni and cheese, pizza, french fries, crackers and pre-packaged processed foods that are vegan or vegetarian but not good sources of nutrients. Consuming too many of these items can lead to excessive calorie intake. It’s best to focus on eating a whole-food diet that incorporates all food groups.
2. Juice Cleanse
Juice cleanses typically last from a few days to a couple weeks. While people may see weight loss during a juice cleanse, this is typically temporary water weight. Juice does contain some vitamins and minerals but it is also full of sugar and lacks fiber. Without fiber, protein and the nutrients contained in other foods, people on a juice cleanse can end up feeling sluggish, irritable, have low productivity and irregular bowel movements.
3. Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic diet is a low carb, moderate protein, very high fat diet plan recently made popular by many celebrities. When people adopt this lifestyle, they are cutting out key food groups. Any nutritional plan that is very restrictive is not going to be a long-term, sustainable healthy diet.
It is important to note that some people have a medical need for a ketogenic diet, managed closely by a physician to control epilepsy or other long-term conditions.
4. Paleo Diet
The paleo diet, or caveman diet, attempts to get back to basics by emphasizing natural, not processed foods. It falls short by being meat heavy and excluding dairy, grains and legumes (certain types of beans), which are all important for a well-rounded diet.
Like the ketogenic diet, gluten-free diets originate in medical necessity. People with celiac disease or sensitivities to gluten need to avoid these foods to manage their symptoms. Without one of these conditions, there is little evidence to suggest that this diet is a healthier alternative. Paleo and ketogenic diets are both low carbohydrate and most people following these are also gluten-free.
Keys to a Healthy Meal Plan:
- Choose foods in their most whole and natural form instead of processed foods.
- Use MyPlate as a guide for filling your plate at meals. Vegetables and fruits should be half of the plate while grains and protein should be a quarter each.
- Switch out sugary beverages like soda and sports drinks for water.
- Aim for nine hours of sleep, five servings of fruits and veggies, less than two hours of screen time, an hour of physical activity and zero sugary beverages every day.
“Everyone starts at a different point when making changes to their lifestyle,” Armstrong adds. “Great places to start are getting back to whole, natural foods, increasing vegetables and fruit consumption and reducing sugary drinks.”