ASK THE EXPERT: The importance of a healthy diet for teenagers; how to eat more fruits and vegetables

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA)– According to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year, teenagers are not consuming the daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables.

The study revealed that only 7.1% of high schoolers meet fruit intake recommendations and only 2% eat enough vegetables.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series in partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis Health, 7 News’ Taylor Murray spoke with a registered dietitian about the importance of fruits and vegetables for adolescents.

“The recommendations differ for boys and girls,” said Bon Secours Registered Dietician, Jalak Patel.

She says girls should get 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables and boys should eat and boys should eat 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables.

Patel say’s its crucial for growth and development.

“Some of our vegetables will give us calcium, too, and also phosphorus that we need in our diet that helps with bone health.”

Fruits & vegetables have other benefits too.

“It gives us essential nutrients that our body needs to function well, to think well, to have a good energy level, and to have good cognitive function.”

Jalak Patel, Registered Dietitian

Not getting enough of these vital nutrients can predispose high school aged children to diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases.

“We’re actually finding that our teenagers now have elevated lipids which are a marker for cardiovascular disease.”

Patel has some tips for encouraging teens to eat more fruits and vegetables, like have them waiting on the counter to snack-on after school.

“When our girls and boys are so hungry when they come home they are more likely to chomp on a vegetable.”

She suggests finding ways to make vegetables more appealing.

“It’s not the end all be all if we have a little cheese on our broccoli.”

Another tip– use breakfast as an opportunity to sneak fruits in.

“Just have half a banana and some peanut butter… or if you want like a yogurt, just add some fruit into that.”

Patel says smoothies using frozen fruit are another great way to get a serving of fruit.

To submit a health topic for our Ask the Expert series, click here.

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