Dr Miriam Stoppard’s top tips for healthy teens

As our kids get older, it’s easy to pay less attention to their health. We talked to childcare expert, Dr Miriam Stoppard, to get her top tips for keeping your teen healthy and happy.

‘There’s a lot more support and information for parents than when I first started writing but much of this trails off when children become teenagers.’

‘As a parent, your role changes as your child grows older, but they’re still as important to you as the day you first held them in your arms, watched them take their first steps or gave them their first solid food. We know that feeling healthy helps with confidence and self esteem as well as being the foundation for dealing with stress or simply achieving potential.’

‘Helping teenagers to live healthy lives can feel almost impossible but here are some simple ways which parents can use to help and support them. Remember that change isn’t easy so if your teenager doesn’t respond straightaway, don’t give up. Keeping going is important in helping your teenager to adopt healthy habits that they take with them into adult life.’


1. Making the right start: Many teens are worried about their weight and often skip meals such as breakfast to shed the pounds. However, eating breakfast actually jump-starts your metabolism and boosts concentration in school. Try adding fruit to their cereal as a twist and use semi-skimmed milk.

2. Take out the salt: There’s no need to add salt to your teenager’s food as it’s already in nearly all processed products. The recommended allowance for teenagers is no more than 6g of salt. Try experimenting with spices instead and check food labels.

3. Spot sheck: Acne is a common problem for teens and parents should be aware how much anxiety it can cause their child. Hormones are the most likely cause which can be helped by eating regular meals and a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Try setting regular meal times and eating together, which can banish the stress that makes spots worse.

4. Get creative with fruit and veg: Teenage girls should have 3 servings of fruit and 4 servings of vegetables each day, and boys should have 4 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables each day to maintain good health. Be imaginative with fruit and veg. Include them in stir fries, curries, pasta dishes or whatever your teenager usually enjoys eating. To see what counts as one of your 5-a-day, try our handy portion sizer.

5. Drink up! Everyone needs water to keep their body hydrated and concentration levels up, but did you know that its good for healthy hair, skin and teeth? Water is a great source of calcium and staying hydrated will help to boost your teenager’s metabolism. Try and get them to drink water at set times – a glass in the morning, at meal times and after school.

6. Pump up the iron: Up to 13% of teenage boys and 27% of girls have low iron stores. Rapid growth, coupled with a fast lifestyle and poor dietary choices, can result in iron-deficiency anaemia. Teenage girls are especially at risk due to monthly menstruation. Iron can be found easily in red meat and fish and is easily absorbed by the body.

7. You decide: During their teenage years, young people want to be independent and that includes them deciding what they eat for themselves. Let them help plan and cook meals, take them grocery shopping and encourage them to take responsibility for their own diets.

8. Smart snacking: There’s nothing wrong with snacking, growing teenagers often need to eat between meals to keep up their energy levels but it does matter just what types of snacks they choose. Healthy foods need to be close at hand. Try stocking the fridge and cupboards with a variety of healthy selections.

9. Be a role model: The best way for you to encourage healthy eating is to eat well yourself. Try not to do the opposite of what you tell your kids.