The Food Pyramid - Fats/Oils/Sweets use sparingly; Milk/Yogurt/Cheese 3 servings; Meat/Poultry/Fish/Dry/Beans/Eggs/Nuts 2+ servings; Vegetables 2-3 servings; Fruits 2+ servings; Breads/Fortified Cereals/Rice/Pasta 6+ servings; Water 8+ servings"I want to eat a healthy diet, but it's impossible with my schedule. I never have time for breakfast. I always get three slices of pepperoni pizza for lunch and two cartons of chocolate milk. I grab a candy bar, chips, and a soda from the machine after school. Then I heat up something for dinner around 9:00 PM when I get home from work, or I stop by McDonald's," says Adam, age 16.

Most teens are on the fast track as they balance school, work, extracurricular activities, friends, and family responsibilities. Teens can be aware of what a healthy diet requires, understand its importance, desire to have it, yet find it too difficult to work into their busy schedules. However, it can be done!

Most teens know which foods are "good" and which are "bad." However, to help kids develop healthy eating patterns, parents should encourage an overall healthy diet, one made up of predominately "good" foods, but that has room for some indulgences as well. The "good" foods, which teens should try to increase their intake of, include the following:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts)
  • Non-fat dairy products (eg, fat-free, unflavored milk)
  • Nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds)
  • Whole grains, such as brown rice, whole-wheat breads, and oatmeal
  • Healthy fats, such as the unsaturated fats in oils, fish, avocados, and nuts
  • Lean sources of protein, such as lean meats, low-fat dairy products, soy products, and beans

Those foods considered "bad," and which teens should try to limit their consumption of, include the usual suspects—soda, candy, and other sugary foods, and foods high in saturated fat or trans fat, such as full-fat dairy products, fried foods, processed snack foods, butter, and margarine.