At some point your teenager, or yourself, may decide to limit your nutritional intake by choosing a vegetarian diet, or perhaps by adopting a “no carb” or “no fat” food policy. Teenagers are likely to inform parents of their new diet practice, rather than ask their parents’ opinion prior to the new diet. Self-imposed dietary restrictions are very common today.
A vegetarian diet eliminates red meat, poultry and fish. It is a plant-focused diet with many variations. For instance, the lacto-ovo vegetarian consumes dairy, eggs, and plant foods. The lacto vegetarian only consumes dairy and plant foods. When all animal foods are eliminated, the diet qualifies as a vegan diet. The more restrictive the diet, the more challenging it is for you or your teenager to get adequate nutrition. The vegetarian lifestyle can be healthy, but it is definitely more challenging to get adequate B-12, adequate protein, and adequate calcium.
Another self-imposed dietary restriction may be a no-fat diet. Teens employing this no-fat restriction usually consume only fat-free products despite the caloric level. A no-fat restriction makes satiation very hard to achieve, and thus many kids find their appetite insatiable. Your teen may initially lose weight from the calorie decrease. However, it is probable they will eventually gain weight due to their constant appetite from exclusively non-fat food selections. Your child may also be at risk for an essential fatty acid deficiency if they have eliminated all fats from their intake. This can make them moody and even precipitate a depression.
The “No-Carb” restriction is very common among teens now. Teenagers follow a low or no-carbohydrate diet with the intention of losing weight or ridding himself or herself from the “bad” food. Many teenagers are associating carbohydrates as “bad food” due to so many people adopting such currently popular diets as South Beach Diet and the Atkins Diet. Kids start restricting breads, pasta, potatoes, rice, beans, fruit, vegetables, milk, and yogurt. Limiting these particular foods makes it difficult to obtain essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which are all shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, hypertension, and sometimes gastrointestinal problems. Children are active and are still growing; it is important that they have a varied diet including complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates provide energy to the body, and especially the brain, because it can only use simple sugar, or glucose, most readily synthesized by the body from carbohydrates.
With the current situation of so many teenagers adopting radically restrictive diets, dieticians and parents must be on the lookout for mood changes such as irritability and depression that might go beyond what we expect to see in our son or daughter. Diet has an impact on mood and highly restrictive diets can have a dramatic impact.