Nutrition for Teens

Parent Q&A

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  • My 17 year old daughter has been suffering from several physical and emotional challenges for quite a while and I'm convinced that they're significantly impacted by lifestyle factors such as nutrition, sleep and exercise. Unfortunately, my partner is a huge barrier to my attempts to help improve those factors (by buying her junk food, painting me as a nag, etc) and wants her to see a psychiatrist to get on medication. I'm hoping to find some kind of lifestyle coach (or maybe it's a behavioral therapist?) who can help my daughter understand the impact of nutrition, sleep and exercise...and can help her create and stick to a health plan. We're in Berkeley but willing to travel around the Bay Area and/or pay out of pocket. My daughter would not be thrilled about working with someone on Zoom but, if that were the only option, I think she'd give it a try. Also, she would do best with someone warm and encouraging. Humor goes a long way with her, too. Thanks in advance for your recommendations! 

    My son had all these issues and more.  He didn't graduate but did take the HS equivalency test.   My husband and I had different ideas about how to help him.  I think we were my son's biggest problem.  My husband wanted to nag him about what he was eating and telling him he need to change, exercise and all the rest of it.  I tried gentle encouragement,  which did some good but not much.   What seemed to help my son was we took school out of the equation, and  he was much happier.  He's now taking classes at the community college.  What I did was started including him in my struggles with weight and exercise and addressing it as if we were fighting it together.  It was a very slow progression but he is now exercising.  I set up a gym in our garage and he meets with a trainer via Zoom three times a week for a half hour.  I try not to nag him about what he eats.  I let the trainer talk to him about nutrition.   He seems to be responding well to this process and exercises on his own sometimes.  He was always too self-conscious to go to the gym but now does go with a cousin once in a while.  I stopped fighting with him about being up all night and he's now self-regulating.  I also suggested and helped him get a job at safeway.  He has to get up at 6 a.m. for work so he's figured out staying up all night doesn't work.  He pays his car insurance and his cell phone.   This has been a long process that started two years ago but I see my son finally growing, learning, and enjoying his life.   I was so afraid he was going to be a recluse with no life.  We spent so much money in therapy to no avail.  Well, possibly it helped a little.   But when I finally got my husband to quit nagging him and let me gently push him, things slowly got better.   Don't be the food police, just don't bring the junk in the house.  No one wants to be policed.   They have to feel like they're doing it for themselves.   Nagging is the worst way to approach these kids or any kid.   I used to tell my husband, every time you nag him,  all he hears is he's not good enough.   Make it a team effort.  I have somewhat of weight problem so it was easy.  His dad is skinny and athletic so he was the wrong person to push him.  Good luck.  I know it's so hard to sit back and watch them go through all of this.

  • Iron infusion for teen's low ferritin?

    (2 replies)

    Hi Everyone.  Does anyone have experience with iron infusions at Walnut Creek Kaiser, or anywhere else?  My teen has had low ferritin, as low as 13 and after years of supplementation is looking at iron infusions.  (The doctor says that she is not anemic but I don't really understand how that is possible with low ferritin for so long.)  She has never had heavy periods. Eats a healthy diet. Plenty of C.   Putting her on the pill helped it go up to 30, it should be 75, and it turns out the pill isn't good for females in our family.

    Has anyone had this experience?  And how did it help?  Sleep? Energy? Mood?  

    Thank you!

    I had low ferritin for around seven years. It got as low as 6, and I was also never anemic. After years of iron supplements, it got up to 20 which I was told was “normal” so I never had infusions. I felt dramatically better at 15-20 than I did at 6. I had way more energy and was way less exhausted.

    I recently had several blood transfusions after some serious injuries and my ferritin finally got up to 100 (not sure if the two were related). I can honestly say I didn’t feel much better at 100 than 20 - the difference from 6 to 15 was much more dramatic / life changing.

    I was in my 30s for my low ferritin years - so definitely an adult. There was never any healthcare provider that suggested I needed to get to 75. They all thought 20 was fine. But maybe kids and teens should have higher values? If so, then I would say going from extremely low to low normal is a huge improvement and worth trying to get to.

    Since she eats well, you are probably also incorporating iron-rich foods. Is she vegetarian? Myself and 2 of my kids have had low iron at various times, either because of being vegetarian, growth spurts, breastfeeding etc.

    I have found that a few Medjool dates with nut butter, usually tahini or peanut butter, eaten daily, increased my iron level significantly, in combination w/eating more meat and other iron/rich foods. I would also make iron-rich smoothie for my kids when needed, w/spinach, a few dates, almond milk, walnuts, dark chocolate powder and berries (cherries work well).

  • Nutritionist for mature tween

    (4 replies)

    I am seeking a nutritionist for my overweight 11-year-old daughter. She's mature and has gone through puberty, so I am looking for someone who can work with this age group to be positive in talking about nutrition and weight, as well as to be sensitive to her emotional issues around these topics. We have been working with our pediatrician, but she is very cut and dry - for instance, she doesn't seem to understand that it's not enough to keep snacks/treats out of the house, as these things then become "forbidden fruit" and my daughter finds ways of getting these things from her friends at school. I also feel that at this point, we need to talk to an expert who really understand what is going on with her diet and where we should focus our attention. Plus, my daughter feels judged and now dreads going to the doctor. I didn't seen anything in the BPN archives. Would also love any advice from someone who has "been there."

    Please tread carefully here- 11 yr old girls are incredibly vulnerable to our society's obsession with women and our weight. 

    Most girls gain weight in puberty and it is pretty normal. I worry that she already has "forbidden foods" and knows she is not allowed to eat certain things. I worry that she dreads the doctor visits as she knows she is being judged on some level. This is how eating disorders start. 

    My daughter had a similar situation --gained weight in puberty-- and I tried to focus on fitness and strength rather than weight or thinness.

    what did NOT help was my focusing on her weight or looks or food...

    I strongly suggest you work with a therapist to help you managed this delicate time in your daughters life.

    I don't have a nutritionist recommendation, but as an adult dieter I've found it very illuminating to keep a food diary. I have a homemade spreadsheet for this, but there are apps and online tools (like My Fitness Pal) that let you track calories, protein, carbs, sugar, fats, sodium, cholesterol, etc., etc. A nutritionist could help set healthy targets (I'm not suggesting a weight-loss diet here, just awareness of what she is eating relative to a healthy eating--and she can see what the trade-off is between that snack and other healthy foods). Of course, then you need to get your 11-year-old to buy into the process (haven't managed this with my 12-year-old, yet).

    My daughter was about 20 pounds overweight at 11. Her pediatrician told me not to say anything to her about weight or foods, just to keep her active, get sufficient sleep, and keep healthy foods in the house with the occasional treat. It took 3-4 years, but my daughter did grow into a healthier weight, just like the pediatrician said she would!

    Frances Holmes is an excellent nutritionist. Her business is called healthy, happy, holistic. 925- 946-9011.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Nutritionist for vegetarian teen

January 2011

I'm looking for a nutritionist who can advise me and my daughter on vegetarian eating for health and weight maintenance. Thanks! concerned mom

Kara Sorensen is super-knowledgeable and easy to connect with. She's an acupuncturist with a Masters in nutrition. And a real vocation for food & nutrition-related issues, from a holistic perspective. She does wonderful work with teens and adults, consulting in person, via phone and skype. Her website has lots of info. Ellen

Hmmm. I think you are overthinking this. No need for a nutritionist. Just read DIET FOR A NEW AMERICA by John Robbins and say hello to a healthier life. Or don't even bother with that. Just get a vegetarian cookbook from the library and away you go. The more animal products you remove from your diet, the healthier and slimmer you get. It is as simple as that. And get some exercise fer crimineys sake. sean

Chalyn Newman is an excellent nutrition and fitness consultant who works with families. With her expertise as a nutritional consultant I am confident that she can advise you and your daughter about how to eat nutritious vegetarian meals that will help you both stay healthy and energetic. Besides having children of her own she also has a masters in education, and works well with children and teens.

Chalyn has worked with my family and a number of my friends and has an excellent knowledge base, and a warm, enthusiastic demeanor. Before Chalyn advised me I struggled with almost a daily afternoon dip in my energy and some other minor health problems that were cleared up once I committed to changing my diet. I learned so much about food, how to plan meals for me and my family and how to eat to help me stay energetic throughout the day. She is also a fabulous cook and will provide you with delicious vegetarian recipes, and even cooking lessons if you want that.

I would highly recommend Chalyn for anyone who is concerned about the health and well being of their family. Chalyn can be reached on her cell phone: (510) 520-5929 and would be happy to speak to you about nutrition and fitness. Good Luck! Healthy Mama

Speaker - nutrition class for teens

Jan 2007

Hello: I am looking for a speaker to address high school kids and their parents on the topic of nutrition, performance both physical and intellectual and long term health management. The talk could include eating disorders, but it's not the main focus. Thank you for your ideas and referals. parent

I recommend Jane Fowler, she's really awesome. I know she handles kids and family nutrician, I'm sure she can handle High School matters... Here is her contact info... Jane Fowler - Feeding and Nutrician Education (925)-938-8174 Deanna

I wholeheartedly recommend Shannon Williams. She is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and her speciality is health and nutrition planning. She would be perfect for what you are looking for. Her phone # is 925-820-6205. Linda

Laurie has a lot of speaking experience with teens! Rebecca

Try the City of Berkeley Public Health Dept for the Physical Activity/Nutrition program for a speaker for teens/nutrition. Community education for young people is a big part of what they do! (And it's free!) Call 981-5300 for more information. good luck