Marie writes about health, well-being, writing and food. Marketing writer with 30 years experience in PR and advertising.
Confused About Healthy Food?
"Did you know that apples have calories!?" exclaims one of my daughter's friends recently, "I didn't know they were fattening!"
This was a statement I overheard during a recent drive to take a group of teenagers to the movies and it made me think about how many other teenagers may have misconceptions about food. In our "obese and diet obsessed society" have some of the messages about which food is good for you gone a little awry?
There are so many fad diets and strange (some even extreme) exercise routines available these days that messages can be misconstrued such as 'fruit contains calories and sugar so they must be fattening'. The fact that the 'sugar' in fruit is natural fructose that the body can handle better than processed sugars just doesn't seem to be understood by some teens.
It is true that the fructose (sugar) in fruit can be fattening if too much fruit is consumed in one day. Two to three pieces of fruit per day can be sufficient in a balanced diet.
So which fats and sugars should we be eating? It's all about balance, too much fat and sugar is definitely going to make you put on weight (as well as cause other health issues), not enough fat and sugar may make you tired and make you lose weight too fast. Losing weight too fast is dangerous for anyone but as a growing teenager it is especially damaging. Many girls upset their menstrual cycle by following crazy diet regimes which don't provide enough nutrients for their growing bodies. The important thing to understand is what your body needs because everyone's metabolism is different.
Metabolism is the rate your body processes the food and drink you consume. Most 'thin' people have a high metabolism rate which means their body processes food at a high rate which helps them remain thin. Of course, the opposite is true with 'fat' people.
The key word is 'balance'. Balance what you eat with how often and how much you exercise, balance your sleep, your alcohol intake and watch out for illicit drugs - they can really stuff up a perfectly good metabolism! Let's not be naïve and think teenagers do not experiment with drugs and alcohol, binge drinking has recently been in the news in Australia.
With access to so many types of foods in affluent countries; some good, some not so good, it's only natural teenagers will become confused about which foods to choose and maybe the food industry, and especially the fast food industry, has to look at how it markets to this age group.
Teens are obsessed with body image and being 'skinny' is an ultimate goal. Just look at many of the magazines, TV shows and images on the net which promote unrealistic bodies (heavily photoshopped images of celebrities) and you will understand the pressure teenagers are under to look thin.
The consumption of fast food doesn't seem to worry the teens, for some it is a major part of their diet. So how do they manage to stay thin when they consume so many calories? Unfortunately some develop conditions such as Bulimia and Anexoria Nervosa which involve unrealistic obsessions with food by using vomiting and binge eating to keep weight down.
The Food Industry must take responsibility and market healthy alternatives in a convincing way to the teenage age bracket if obesity and food misconceptions are to be overcome.
Choose healthy food over fast food
Apples are not only good for you, they also -
- clean your teeth
- may help lower cholesterol levels
- good for detoxifying
- have antiviral properties
- have plenty of fibre to keep you full
Most fruits will have the above properties in varying degrees. When trying to decide which food is healthy a good rule of thumb is 'if it comes from nature then its generally good for you'. Eating raw food can have benefits as some nutrients may be lost during some cooking processes.
CALORIES, what are they?
When we eat it's usually because we are hungry but it's not always the case. Some people eat out of boredom; because they crave something sweet, because the food is in front of them or they just feel like a snack. Basically, as food is so readily available in western society we don't eat only when we are hungry so it is important to know something about your calorie intake when you are trying to be healthy.
What we eat is broken down by the digestive system into sugars, carbohydrates, amino and fatty acids. Carbohydrates fuel our bodies and this 'food energy' is measured in calories or kilojoules, units of measurement which show how much energy is in a particular food and what is being burned when we exercise.
To give you an idea of how these measurements work here are some examples per gram of different food types -
- Fat – 37kJ (9 Cal)
- Alcohol – 29kJ (7 Cal)
- Carbohydrates – 16kJ (4 Cal)
- Protein – 17kJ (4 Cal)
- Dietary fibre – 13kJ (3 Cal)
- Water – 0kJ (0 Cal)
Note: These are only estimates as different foods will vary in that they may be eaten raw or cooked. For example; an apple eaten raw will give different sugar levels than that of apple contained in an apple pie.
A short list of healthy vs fatty food. You choose which you prefer.
Good healthy eating is a lifestyle choice. In many western countries there is such a variety of fast food available it is easy, in our fast paced lives, to eat something quick and greasy. Who has time to cook anymore?
Teenagers certainly aren't interested in cooking and unless parents prepare healthy meals for them they will live on a staple diet of 'junk food'. Also, at this age, it isn't just weight that becomes a problem when too much fat is consumed, with hormones going berserk during puberty, acne is a major problem as well.
Also, the adults in a family should lead by example and start eating healthy themselves. Once you start using less salt, sugar and fats in your daily diet your taste in the types of food you eat will change and fast foods will be just too salty and fatty, which in turn will make you eat less food that is bad for you.
Take a look at the short list of healthy alternatives and you decide whether it is easy to make a healthy choice and improve your lifestyle.
Home cooked steak (with fat) Vs Store bought hamburger
220 calories vs Up to 1000+ calories
Roast chicken Vs Fried chicken
400 calories vs 1000+ calories
Pasta with vegetables Vs 250g chips
260 calories vs 1250 calories
Homemade chicken soup Vs canned chicken soup
60 calories vs 175 calories
Green Salad with vinaigrette dressing Vs Thai Beef Salad
55 calories vs 256 calories
Weetbix, banana and reduced fat milk Vs Turkish bread with butter & vegemite
1287 calories vs 2028 calories
Muesli with skim milk Vs Bacon and egg roll
1147 calories vs 2512 calories
Fruit salad with yogurt Vs Ham and cheese croissant
1109 calories vs 2052 calories
Note: calories are approximate and only a guide
Disclaimer: This article is only intended as advice and you should consult a qualified nutritionist, doctor or health professional whenever you seek advice about your personal health and diet.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2010 Maria Giunta
chyy2901 on March 23, 2013:
Teenagers should read more on article like yours to avoid misconceptions. Great info!
Read more on healthy lifestyle at
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on October 19, 2011:
Hi glassvisage, I have heard about not eating fruit after noon but like you I eat fruit whenever I feel like it. Glad to see you were able to beat your eating disorder and are sensible about your eating habits. Thanks for a great comment.
glassvisage from Northern California on October 19, 2011:
Great Hub. My mom's co-worker has a trainer who told her not to eat fruit after noon because of the sugar... I couldn't believe it! I eat fruit all the time. I remember when I had an eating disorder and would laugh to myself when I saw people eat grapes because they have very slightly more fat than other fruits... I can't believe I used to think that way. Thanks for expounding on these myths.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on August 01, 2011:
Well I do hope this article helps in some way to dispel any myths. With so much information out there it is hard to know what is good for you. Thanks for your comment mtsi1098
mtsi1098 on August 01, 2011:
it is true that teens have a misunderstanding on foods but thankfully there are articles like this one to clear the air :) We have to be careful on the selection of foods, if the fat does not get you the sugars will...thanks
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on November 15, 2010:
How sad is that, chicken comes from McDonalds! The US is not the only place this happens, Australia is a mini-US when it comes to the fast food industry, just in my area there are at least 12 McDonalds outlets within 15mins driving distance.
Children need to be informed that fast food is a 'sometimes treat' and not to be a main part of their diet. Thanks for helping me get this message across and for the rate up. Nice to 'meet' you too CountryCityWoman, I'm sure we'll be speaking more soon.
CountryCityWoman from From New York City to North Carolina on November 15, 2010:
This makes me think of the child - who when asked where does chicken come from said "McDonald's" - we have done such a disservice to our children, especially in the US by accepting such poor quality foods and allowing the mega junk food corps to advertise to children - junk that has little if any nutritional value - yikes.
Thanks for a well-told informative hub. Rated up.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on September 13, 2010:
Exactly PN, we need to lose weight the right way. Teens are conscious about losing weight these days but they have to also understand that their bodies are still growing and developing so they have to eat the right foods to assist that growth.
PaperNotes on September 13, 2010:
Informative hub. Many people nowadays, especially teens are conscious about losing weight. Perhaps to lose weight the right way, one need to be informed about the nutritional value of the foods they eat. It is essential that we eat Go, Grow and Glow foods in just the right amount in order to be healthy..then exercise too to keep the body fit.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on May 13, 2010:
You are so right Katelyn, especially amongst teens. Thanks for the comment.
Katelyn Weel from Ontario, Canada on May 13, 2010:
Excellent article! You've got some well-rounded info here, I hope more people read this because there are some pretty wild misunderstandings about food out there.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on April 16, 2010:
Glad you found it helpful Glaxay 59 and thanks for taking the time to visit my hubs.
Galaxy Harvey from United Kingdom on April 15, 2010:
Very helpful and informative. As someone who is trying very hard to lose weight and get herself a little more healthy this should come in handy.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on March 16, 2010:
Prasetio30, eating healthy means eating apples and lots of other fruit and vegetables.
Dolores, it is strange that we are writing all these hubs about how to eat healthy and lose weight with 3/4 of the world starving! It is very sad but is it a problem for the wealthier nations, thanks for commenting.
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on March 16, 2010:
Well, MPG, if people want quick and easy, you can get quicker or easier than an apple. What they really want is fat, sugar, and salt. It is amazing how much junk food there is out there when people in parts of the world are starving.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on March 16, 2010:
I never know about this before. I only know that apple is good for diet and as an anti-oxidant. thanks for showing me about this.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on March 11, 2010:
Glad you liked it Pamela. Teenagers especially need to watch what they eat, there are just too many junk food choices out there.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2010:
Good hub with a lot of healthy information. I don't think we think about what we are putting in your mouths at times. This is a good message.
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on March 09, 2010:
Thanks jb, I don't think many people realise just what they are putting into their mouths daily.
jb1310 on March 09, 2010:
I know schools talk about healthy food, but perhaps they need too get the message across about the calories in the popular foods teenagers eat so they understand their food choices better. Wonder how many teenagers or adults really know how many calories they should consume in one day?