Dietary habits, which affect food preferences, energy consumption and nutrient intakes, are generally developed in early childhood and particularly during adolescence.
The home and school environments play a major role in determining a child's attitude to, and consumption of individual foods. Teenagers, as well as being exposed to periodic food fads and slimming trends, tend to skip meals and develop irregular eating habits. One of the most frequently missed meals is breakfast.
Studies show that breakfast plays an important role in providing needed energy and nutrients after an overnight fast and can aid in concentration and performance at school. Snacks generally form an integral part of meal patterns for both children and teenagers. Younger children cannot eat large quantities at one sitting and often get hungry long before the next regular mealtime. Mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks can help to meet energy needs throughout the day. Fast-growing and active teenagers often have substantial energy and nutrition needs and the teaching of food and nutrition in the school curricula will enable children to have the knowledge to make informed choices about the foods in their regular meals and snacks.
5.4. Energy needs
Normally, the energy requirements of adolescents tend to parallel their growth rate, and individuals assess their energy needs by means of their appetite with remarkable precision. As a result, the majority of adolescents maintain energy balance, and a varied food intake provides sufficient nutrients to ensure optimal growth and development. Stress and emotional upsets however can seriously affect the energy balance in adolescents, resulting in the consumption of too little or too much food. Mild or severe infections, nervousness, menstrual, dental or skin problems (acne) can result in depression of appetite, and those adolescents on marginal diets are the most vulnerable. Emotional stress is often associated with food faddism and slimming trends, both of which can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. On the other hand, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents is now a major nutritional problem and the condition is likely to persist into adulthood. Developing adolescents are particularly concerned about their body image and excessive weight can have profound effects on their emotional well being as well as on their physical health. The cause of obesity is multifactorial and socio-economic, biochemical, genetic, and psychological factors all closely interact. Lack of activity plays an important role in the development, progression and perpetuation of obesity in adolescence. Surveys of young people have found that the majority is largely inactive and health professionals and governments are now encouraging higher levels of physical activity among children and adolescents. Physical inactivity does not only have a prime role in the development of overweight and obesity, but also on the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, hypertension, bowel problems and osteoporosis in later life. In addition, physical activity is related to improvements in body flexibility, balance, agility and co-ordination and strengthening of bones. The current recommendation is for children to try to be physically active for at least 60 minutes daily. To know more about physical activity.