Healthy eating, sleep and physical activity are all important parts of living healthy lives. For teens especially, as their brains are developing, it's important to balance all of these for healthy growing.
In the digital age of technology, it's important to know how screen time, such as cell phones, computers, tablets and televisions, can impact healthy living.
Keep your teen as healthy as possible by keeping their vaccinations up-to-date.
Ministry of Health legislation and the Immunization of School Pupils Act requires public health to:
- Hold a vaccination record for each child in school
- Review these files to make sure they are up-to-date
- Notify parents if immunization information is missing or incomplete
It's important for teens to have an up-to-date vaccination record.
A good resource you can share with your teen is Teens, meet Vaccines.
Although healthy habits begin to develop early in your child's life, it’s not too late when they're teenagers. While it’s sometimes difficult to see, teenagers are influenced by the choices and behaviour of their parents or caregivers.
All teens need a range of nutrients, and water, for growth and activity. When a teen experiences a growth spurt, they have higher nutrient needs. Teenage girls also have an increased need for iron.
By respecting your teen's appetite and fullness cues, and by having nutritious choices available, teens are more likely to meet their nutrition needs while learning, or continuing, to trust their body.
Eating on the run
When in a rush, many of us, including teens, look for a quick meal at a fast food restaurant. Fast food meals tend to be high in fat, salt and calories and low in fibre. Many fast food places are now including healthier options. However, it's best to keep fast food intake limited.
Teens are some of the highest consumers of sugary drinks, which is why sugar intake is generally higher for teens than children or adults. You can help your teen develop healthy beverage habits by:
- Reducing the amount of sugary drinks available at home
- Encouraging them to make healthy drink choices when they are away from home
Take some time to explain to your teen that some drinks contain a lot of sugar and should not be consumed every day. Make it easier for them to choose healthy beverages by:
- Offering water or carbonated water with meals and snacks
- Brainstorming as a family ways to flavour water with fruits and herbs
Ideas to encourage healthy eating
- Continue to offer regular family meals with no television or distractions
- Plan meals and snacks using Canada’s Food Guide
- Keep healthy foods in the house since what you buy is what they eat
- Teach your teenagers how to prepare food at home
- Encourage your teen to bring a packed lunch to school
- Practice your own healthy eating habits and avoid diets that restrict food choices
- Raise your teen to have a healthy body image
- Avoid talking about difficult issues that can make mealtime stressful - plan another time to discuss them
- Healthy eating for teens
- Sugary drinks and your teen
- Meal planning for the vegetarian teen
- Top 10 easy ways to get teens cooking
Talk to a registered dietician
For free and confidential information on nutrition and feeding (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.), call TeleHealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000.
Sleep is important to your teen's physical and mental health. Getting the right amount of sleep is important for proper brain development. Being sleepy can affect all of your daily functions and can make it harder to concentrate and learn. Tips for your teen's healthy sleeping include:
- Get eight to 10 hours of sleep a night
- Try to have a consistent bed and wake up time
- Don’t eat, drink, or exercise within a few hours of your bedtime
- Avoid caffeinated drinks late in the day or evening, including coffee, some teas, energy drinks, and some soft drinks
- Always go to sleep in your bed, not on the couch or in front of the television
- Avoid doing homework or using a smartphone, gaming system, or tablet in your bed
- On weekends and holidays, despite what time you go to bed, try to get up within two to four hours of your regular wake time
- Screen time
Teen minds are always developing, and with today’s technology, it’s important to find a balance to best navigate the digital world.
Screen time refers to any time spent with any screen, including computers, televisions, smartphones, tablets, video games and wearable technology. It's recommended that teens have no more than two hours per day of recreational screen time. This doesn't include time spent working on homework or other educational activities.
- Start a conversation about technology and screen time; try to understand what your child likes and doesn’t like about screens
- Teach teens about safety and social media use
- Create a screen time family agreement with your teen
- Be mindful of your own time on technology and screens
- Encourage turning off devices during family time and before going to bed
- Don't keep phones in your bedroom at night
Suggest screen-less activities for your teens that help to develop a healthy body and mind like:
- Going for a nature walk
- Cooking dinner as a family
- Hanging out with friends
- Going for a picnic
- Playing sports
- Reading a book
- Doing a puzzle
- Physical activity
Move more and sit less. Making sure your teens are physically active can have great health benefits and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, obesity, and heart disease. When it comes to physical activity, Canada’s 24-Hour Movement Guidelines suggest teens get:
- At least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity
- Muscle and bone strengthening activities at least three days a week
- Several hours of light movement throughout the day
- No more than two hours of recreational screen time a day
Check out Government of Canada’s Physical Activity Tips for Youth to help get your teens more active.