The aim of most teachers, parents or guardians, as well as faith based business and community organizations in Guyana and elsewhere, is to prepare children for a bright future. During this period of their intellectual growth, development and advancement, children should not only be taught academic and technical vocational skills, but also good moral values, principles and discipline, which are critical elements in shaping their character.
In today’s society, technology, peers and family members have played and continue to play a major role in influencing the decisions of children. Being an adolescent today is an exciting and somewhat challenging period in human development. Studies have shown that adolescents experience rapid growth that is noticeable in their physical and psychosocial health. It is believed that this generation of children mature earlier than past generations in their thinking, behaviour and emotional functioning, and they have become more independent. Being accepted by friends and peers and sharing opinions are more important for many than cherished family values.
Experts have contended that such behaviours tend to create conflicts between teens, their parents or family members, and others in authority. From early to late adolescence, most teenagers tend to cast-off societal norms and family values as they become preoccupied with the size, shape and image of their bodies; peer influence and their ability to think and reason. They have become more independent as they develop their own set of core values to guide their moral and ethical decisions. Good nutrition is essential for their development in this period, but their psychosocial development may positively or negatively impact their health choices.
In general, girls more than boys are obsessed with their body image and the intense fear of being overweight, even if they are not. This type of distortion of body image has led many to restrict their calories intake by consuming little. They have also avoided nutritious foods or even skipped meals regularly and have engaged in exercise for lengthy periods of time because of their fear of gaining weight. Their poor eating habits and obsessive weight control have impacted their health and, in some cases, have contributed to eating disorders.
An example of such a eating disorder is anorexia nervosa, which is characterized by abnormally low body weight. Another is bulimia nervosa which involves binge-eating episodes, self-induced vomiting, and the misuse of laxatives, as well as fasting or participating in excessive exercise. Whatever the case, eating disorders can affect the health of children, teens, and adults and would require medical advice.
Given all of the above, one can conclude that adolescents’ dietary intakes can vary due to several influencing factors, which when examined may not necessarily be the best. Generally, good dietary practices among this specific targeted population have been affected by skipping a meal or two, excessive eating of snacks that are usually high in fat, sugar, and salt and greater consumption of sugary beverages.
Therefore to support human growth and development, proper eating habits are beneficial, in that they contribute to healthy bones and skin, as well as boosting the immune system. Lower intake of calories has led to potential risk for dental care, eating disorders, and malnutrition and iron deficiency anemia. Food nutritionists have contended that a balanced diet with adequate macro and micronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, and water) will help teens to meet their daily nutritional requirements without gaining weight.
It is the responsibility of parents/guardians to make available to their children, healthy food choices. Fruits, vegetables, peas and beans, and foods from the staples and from animals’ food groups and the consumption of adequate water intake should be prioritized.
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