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updated: 8/8/2011 5:50 AM

Create a healthy diet for hungry adolescents

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Q. With the new school year approaching, and as a mother of two teenage boys who play multiple sports, I want to start packing school lunches to ensure my kids are eating healthy. I have an idea of what's considered healthy, but what are some of the best food options for them to ensure they're getting what they need to grow and they're not complaining about being hungry all the time?
Jennifer, Palatine

A. Hi, Jennifer, thank you for your question. We can imagine it must be a challenge to keep your two teenage boys' hunger under control. With activity from sports and seemingly constant growth spurts, proper nutrition is as important as ever during adolescent years. For the kids we work with between the ages of 12 and 17, we recommend the following tips.

As a general rule, try to give your kids as much food variety as possible. This ensures a wide array of nutrients and minimizes their chances of getting burned out on a particular food. Think of getting variety within each of the three macronutrient groups -- protein, fats and carbohydrates. Protein foods include meats, eggs, fish and dairy. Healthy fats include nuts and natural nut butters, avocado, oils, seeds, olives and natural cheeses. Carbohydrates include all fruits and vegetables, along with beans, potatoes, rice, cereals and breads.

Along with variety, pick foods that are the most nutritious. Nutrient-dense foods will give your kids more of the things they need and keep them satisfied longer. In general, natural foods are more nutritious than processed foods. Natural foods are minimally or totally unaltered from their original state, such as fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, eggs and nuts. Processed foods include cereals, crackers, cookies, hot dogs and frozen dinners, just to name a few.

Get a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates with each meal. Although a banana is healthy, it's all carbohydrates, so try to pair it up with a hard-boiled egg and a tablespoon of peanut butter to balance it out. This will give variety, but will also help control blood sugar levels so they don't spike too high or drop too low -- an effect of eating pure carbohydrates that is sure to make your kids feel hungry all the time.

Finally, be aware of the calories your kids are drinking. Cut out soft drinks and minimize processed fruit juices. Drinks containing sugar or caffeine will again spike blood sugar levels and manipulate energy levels and appetite. Replace these types of drinks with filtered water, coconut water, milk and natural juices.

Teaching kids healthy eating habits while they're young will increase their chances of maintaining those habits well into adulthood.

If you have an exercise or nutrition question, email us at Train@GetYourPush.com

• Joshua Steckler and Mark Trapp are co-owners of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutrition. Contact them at their website, PushFitnessTraining.com.

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