When it comes to diet, teenage girls need a lot of improvement, says a new study published in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Fewer than 1% of female adolescents currently meet the government’s recommendations to cull from all five food groups, claim the study authors. In fact, a whopping 18% of teenage girls fail to meet any of the food group recommendations! Not surprisingly, the majority of female adolescents regularly skip breakfast and don’t consume adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals.

So what’s a parent to do? The study authors offered these practical suggestions on how to instill healthy eating habits in this at-risk population:

  • Educate all teens (but especially girls) on the adverse effects of skipping meals. One highly effective strategy is to remind them that this practice can actually cause them to gain rather than lose weight, owing to subsequent overeating and excessive snacking later in the day.
  • Highlight the benefits of eating regular meals. The advantages include increased energy to perform well in school and sports and decreased risk for becoming overweight.
  • Promote the value of selecting nutrient-dense foods that are easy to prepare and can be eaten on the road. Examples of such foods include low-fat yogurt mixed with low-fat granola; cheese on whole-wheat crackers; peanut butter sandwiches; and nuts and dried fruits.
  • Work with school officials to provide healthy choices in school vending machines and lunch programs.
  • Become an advocate for regional and national programs that educate kids on ways to make more healthful food choices.