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Take Charge of Your Health

Take Charge of Your Health A Guide for Teenagers

What's in This Booklet?

As you get older, you are starting to make your own decisions about many things that are important to you. You select what you wear every day, listen to music that you like, and spend time with friends that you choose. Are you also ready to take charge of decisions that affect your health?

This booklet gives you small and doable steps that may help you get healthier. In this booklet, you will find five main sections:

Know How Your Body Works explains how your body uses the food you eat and how physical activity and other tasks help your body "burn" food.

Charge Up with Healthy Eating includes tips to help you plan for healthy eating.

Get Moving gives you some ideas for being physically active in fun ways.

Take Your Time shares some ideas to help you ease into healthy habits and keep them up for a long time.

Make It Work for You is a tool to help you plan healthy meals and physical activities that fit into your busy life.

You can also check out the "Did you know?" boxes to learn interesting facts related to your health. Other helpful tips and fun ideas also appear in boxes throughout this booklet. Try flipping through the booklet before you begin reading to get an idea of what you will find on each page.

Know How Your Body Works

Think of food as energy to charge up your battery for the day. Throughout the day, you use energy from the battery to think and move, so you need to eat regularly to keep powered up. This is called "energy balance" because you need to balance food (energy you take in) with activity (energy you spend).

How much energy does your body need?

You may have heard of calories, which measure the amount of energy in a food. There is no "right" number of calories that works for everyone. The number of calories you need depends on whether you are a girl or a boy, how old you are, and how active you are (which may not be the same every day).

Should you diet?

Dieting may not be wise. Many teens try to lose weight by eating very little, cutting out whole groups of foods (like "carbs"), skipping meals, and fasting. These methods can leave out important foods your body needs. In fact, unhealthy dieting may make you gain more weight because it often leads to a cycle of eating very little, then overeating or binge eating because you are hungry. This can also affect your emotions and how you grow.

Other weight-loss tactics like smoking, self-induced vomiting, or using diet pills or laxatives (medicines that help people have bowel movements) can also lead to health problems.

Eating healthy and being physically active may help you . . .

Do better in school.

Have more energy for other fun times, like hanging out with your friends.

Make friends who share your interests in dance, sports, or other activities.

Tone up and strengthen your muscles.

Improve your mood.

Charge Up with Healthy Eating

Healthy eating involves taking control of how much and what types of food you eat. This section has information to help you .

Control your food portions.

Charge your battery with high-energy foods.

Avoid pizza, candy, and fast food.

Stay powered up all day.

Control your food portions

A portion is the amount of one food you eat at one time. Many people eat larger portions than they need, especially when eating away from home. Ready-to-eat meals (from a restaurant, grocery store, or school event) may have larger portions than you need. Follow the tips below to control portions.

When eating away from home,

Order something small. Try a half-portion or healthy appetizer, like hummus (chickpea spread) with whole-wheat pitas or grilled chicken. If you order a large meal, take half of it home or split it with someone else at the table.

Limit the amount of fast food you eat. When you do get fast food, say "no thanks" to super-sized or value-sized options, like those that come with fries and soda.

Choose salad with low-fat dressing, a sandwich with mustard instead of mayo, or other meals that have fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

Choose grilled options, like chicken, or remove breading from fried items. Avoid meals that use the words creamy, breaded, battered, or buttered.

When eating at home,

Take one serving out of a package and eat it off a plate instead of eating straight out of a box or bag. "What do all these numbers mean?" explains where you can find serving sizes.

Avoid eating in front of the TV or while you are busy with other activities. It is easy to lose track of how much you are eating if you eat while doing other things.

Eat slowly so your brain can get the message that your stomach is full. Your brain needs about 20 minutes before it gets the message.

Charge your battery with high-energy foods

Eating healthy is not just about the amount of food you eat. You need to make sure you're eating the types of food that charge you up. Strive to eat meals that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat protein, and dairy. More information is below, and you can check out the meal planning tool at the end of this guide.

Fruits and Vegetables

Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Dark green, red, and orange vegetables, in particular, have high levels of the nutrients you need, such as vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. Adding spinach or romaine lettuce and tomato to your sandwich is an easy way to get more veggies in your meal.


Choose whole grains, like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal.


Power up with lean meats, like turkey on a sandwich, or chicken, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, tofu, and other protein-rich foods.


Build strong bones with fat-free or low-fat milk products. If you cannot digest lactose (the sugar in milk that causes some people stomach pain), choose soy or rice milk and low-fat yogurt.

Avoid pizza, candy, and fast food

You don't have to stop eating these items, but eating less of them may help you maintain a healthy weight. Pizza, candy, fast food, and sodas have lots of added sugar, solid fats, and sodium. A healthy eating plan is low in these items.

Added Sugars

Many foods, especially fruits, are naturally sweet. Other foods, like cookies, snack cakes, and brownies, have added sugars to make them taste better. These sugars add calories but not nutrients.

Solid Fats

Fat is important. It helps your body grow and develop; it is a source of energy; and it even keeps your skin and hair healthy. But some fats are better for you than others.

Solid fats

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard. These fats often contain saturated and trans fats, which are high in calories and not heart healthy. Take it easy on foods like cakes, cookies, pizza, and fries, which often have a lot of solid fat.


Your body needs a small amount of sodium (mostly found in salt). But eating too much sodium can raise your blood pressure, which is unhealthy for your heart and your body in general.

Processed foods, like those that are canned, frozen, or packaged, often have a lot of sodium. Fresh foods do not, but often cost more. If you can afford to, eat fresh foods and prepare your own low-salt meals. If you use packaged foods, check the amount of sodium listed on the Nutrition Facts label. (Read "What do all these numbers mean?".) Rinse canned vegetables to remove excess salt.

Try to eat fewer than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. This equals about one teaspoon and includes salt that is already in prepared food, as well as salt you add when cooking or eating your food.

Your doctor knows more about your specific needs, so don't be afraid to ask her or him how much sodium you should be eating.

What do all these numbers mean?

Serving Size. Check the amount of food in a serving. Do you eat more or less? The "servings per container" line tells you the number of servings in the food package.

Calories and Other Nutrients.Remember, the number of calories and other listed nutrients is for one serving only. Food packages often contain more than one serving.

Percent Daily Value.Look at how much of the recommended daily amount of a nutrient (% DV) is in one serving of food. In most cases, 5% DV or less is low and 20% DV or more is high. For example, this label shows that the food has 20% of the calcium you need to eat in one day. We can consider this food high in calcium. Notice, though, that it is also high in sodium (20%).

Stay charged up all day

Skipping meals can lead to weight gain. Follow these tips to maintain a healthy weight:

Eat breakfast every day. It gets your body going. You can even grab something on the go, like a piece of fruit and a slice of whole-grain bread.

Pack your lunch on school days..If you pack your lunch, you can control the portions and make sure your meal is healthy.

Eat dinner with your family. When you eat with your family, you are more likely to eat a healthy meal, and you can take the time to catch up with each other.

If you're involved, you can make sure meals are healthy and taste good.

Read more..
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