Healthy Living

Healthy Foundations: From Healthy Teens To Healthy Adults

It’s not easy to break a lifetime of unhealthy habits, so it’s far better to get the next generation off to a good start. If teenagers get hooked on junk food, sedentary lifestyles, and bad habits at their young age, they will be more likely to suffer the effects as they grow into adults. However, if they begin exercising, eating the right food, and learn healthy habits now, they will be far more likely to carry on these habits when they go off to college, and into the rest of their lives. As a result, they’re less likely to suffer from diabetes, addictions, heart disease, or any other horrible side effects of a bad lifestyle. Some habits will be easier to pass on than others, but here are a few things you can do to encourage your teens to live a healthier lifestyle.

Get enough sleep

Parents may wish their children would get out of bed earlier on weekends, but the truth is that teenagers need more sleep than adults. The average teenager needs between nine and ten hours of sleep per night to function well in the mornings, particularly during school terms. If you’ve noticed that your teenager has been in a mood, has been struggling to stay on top of their school work and commitments, or their grades a suffering, a lack of sleep might be the biggest culprit. There is a link between tiredness and anxiety levels, as emotional stability is improved when you are fully rested. Studies have shown a link between insomnia and depression, as the brain requires plenty of rest to be able to manage emotions correctly. Additionally, sleep is good for teenagers because when you’re dreaming, your brain puts your thoughts and experiences into the right ‘boxes’, so that they can be easily accessed. So, if they’re trying to learn something new, such as information for a test, getting a good night’s sleep can help you retain that information. Sleep is as important for brain function as water and a good diet, therefore staying up all night to work on a project or finish off an essay isn’t going to do much to help your teen’s grades.  

Don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs

Everything you do when you’re young can catch up to you when you’re older. Therefore, if you start smoking as a teenager, you’re more likely to have cancer, heart disease, or a stroke as an adult. Binge drinking before you reach the legal drinking age can increase your chances of getting liver disease or developing problems with alcohol. You might discuss alcohol with your kids in general terms when they’re younger, but once they get their licence you might also mention the dangers of drunk driving in addition to how binge drinking can harm their grades. Taking any drugs will impact your health, but they will do more damage if you take them young. You might not want to have these conversations with your kids, but the best way to keep them safe is to encourage dialogue about these taboo topics. Avoiding them altogether means that your child is less likely to seek out help if they have a problem down the road. Don’t shy away from your own history, but make it clear why you don’t want your children to follow in your example. There are plenty of tips for talking to teens about these issues, but you will have to find a method that works for you. Don’t just trust their school to cover these subjects for you; they don’t know your child as well as you do, and you have a better chance of getting through to them.

Safe sex

No parent wants to think about their kids having intercourse, but the truth is that it’s going to happen eventually whether you like it or not. If you want them to avoid any unpleasant surprises like pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), then you need to sit down with them and have a mature discussion. Most teenagers get confusing second-hand information from their peers or older siblings, so many of them might be grateful for their parents or other trusted adults taking the time to talk about it, even if they might be embarrassed about it at first.  However you bring up the topic of sex and relationships, listen to what your teenager has to say. You can then use this to let the conversation develop. If they talk about condoms or birth control pills, then make sure they know why it’s important to use them, where to get them and how to use them. Having this conversation with your teenager won’t give them a green light to have sex, but it will teach them to be smart and safe when the time comes.


Keeping fit is not just good for the body, but it can also increase the effectiveness of studying. Exercise creates many chemicals for the brain that help motivation, focus and alertness which are all key to being a good student, especially around exam time and finals. Exercise also decreases stress hormones and chemicals like cortisol that can interfere with learning and overall health.

Eat a varied diet

Teenagers require greater amounts of nutrition because this is when they do most of their growing. A healthy diet equals a healthy teenager. However, eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to stuff your face with spinach and lettuce every day (although leafy greens are rich in fiber, Vitamin C, and can reduce the risk of cancer). Cheese, lean meats, and even dark chocolate can all keep you healthy and energized.

Drink water

When teenagers want a fast way to improve their skin and lose some weight, they should look no further than water. Drinking water every day helps digestion and constipation, help them lose weight, and clear up spotty skin. Teenagers should also keep an eye on their caffeine intake. While it’s not harmful in small amounts, high doses of caffeine can cause anxiety and interrupt normal sleep.

Karla Urwitz
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