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Weight Management for Adolescents

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about weight management?

You can manage your weight by regularly choosing healthy foods and exercising. Over time, these healthy habits can help you maintain or lose weight safely. Fad diets usually do not have all the nutrients you need to grow and stay healthy. Diet pills can be dangerous to your health. Fad diets and diet pills usually do not help you keep weight off long term.

What increases my risk for becoming overweight?

  • Family history of overweight and obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • High intake of calories

How do I maintain my weight or lose weight safely?

Work with your healthcare provider or dietitian to develop a plan for maintaining or losing weight safely. If you are obese, your healthcare provider may recommend that you lose weight. He or she may recommend any of the following:

  • Follow a healthy meal plan. Eat a variety of healthy foods from all the food groups.
  • Get regular physical activity. Try to get 1 hour or more of physical activity each day. Examples include sports, running, walking, swimming, and bike riding. The hour of physical activity does not need to be done all at once. It can be done in shorter blocks of time. Include strength training such as weights, resistance bands, and pushups. Limit television, computer time, and video games to less than 2 hours each day.
    Family Walking for Exercise
    Strength Training for Teens
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about appropriate weight loss goals. Lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds a week based on your age and starting weight. Your healthcare provider will tell you how many calories you need to lose weight.

How do I create a healthy meal plan?

Healthy Foods
  • Eat whole-grain foods more often. A healthy meal plan should contain fiber. Fiber is the part of grains, fruits, and vegetables that is not broken down by your body. Whole-grain foods are healthy and provide extra fiber. Some examples of whole-grain foods are whole-wheat breads and pastas, oatmeal, and brown rice.
  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Include dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collard greens, and mustard greens. Eat yellow and orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Choose fresh or canned fruit (canned in its own juice or light syrup) instead of juice. Fruit juice has very little or no fiber.
  • Eat low-fat dairy foods. Drink fat-free (skim) milk or 1% milk. Eat fat-free yogurt and low-fat cottage cheese. Try low-fat cheeses such as mozzarella and other reduced-fat cheeses.
  • Choose meat and other protein foods that are low in fat. Choose beans or other legumes such as split peas or lentils. Choose fish, skinless poultry (chicken or turkey), or lean cuts of meat (beef or pork).
  • Use less fat and oil. Add less fat, such as margarine, sour cream, regular salad dressing, and mayonnaise to foods. Eat fewer high-fat foods. Some examples of high-fat foods include French fries, doughnuts, ice cream, and cakes.
  • Eat fewer sweets. Limit foods and drinks that are high in sugar. This includes candy, cookies, regular soda, and sweetened drinks.

What are some other tips for making healthy food choices?

  • Eat 3 meals and 1 to 2 healthy snacks each day.
    • Do not skip breakfast. It often leads to overeating later in the day. An example of a healthy breakfast would be low-fat milk (1% or skim) with a low-sugar cereal and fruit. Some examples of low-sugar cereals are corn flakes, bran flakes, and oatmeal.
    • Pack a healthy lunch. Pack baby carrots or pretzels instead of potato chips in your lunch box. You can also add fruit, low-fat pudding, or low-fat yogurt instead of cookies.
    • Take healthy snacks to school. Healthy snacks also help curb your hunger throughout the day. Examples include a piece of fruit, nuts, or trail mix.
  • Think about ways that you can decrease calories.
    • Eat smaller portion sizes. Use a smaller plate during meals. Serve a portion of potato chips or ice cream into a bowl instead of eating from the package or container. When you go to a restaurant, share a meal with a friend, or order an appetizer as a main dish. You can also portion out half your meal and put the other half in a to-go container before you eat. Do not order value meals at fast food restaurants.
      Portion Sizes for Adolescents
    • Limit high-sugar, high-fat foods. Drink water or low-fat milk instead of soft drinks, fruit juice drinks, and sports drinks. You can decrease your calories by 150 or more by cutting out one soda or sports drink a day. You can also decrease your calories by 200 or more by cutting out one chocolate bar or bag of potato chips. Ask your healthcare provider for information about how to read food labels.
    • Limit meals at fast food restaurants. When you do eat out, choose foods that are lower in calories. For example, choose a grilled chicken sandwich or salad instead of a cheeseburger. Order a side salad instead of French fries. Order water or a calorie-free drink instead of a soda.
    • Stop eating when you feel full. It may be helpful for you to eat slower so that you recognize when you are full. Try taking a break before you help yourself to another serving of food.

How can I develop healthy habits that last?

  • Try to make only a few changes at a time. It may be too hard for you to make too many changes all at once. During one week, you could eat a healthy breakfast and take daily walks. You then could add a new change each week after that.
  • Ask your parents for support. Ask if your whole family can work on making healthy changes.
  • Avoid eating when you are stressed, upset, or bored. Take a walk around the block or go to the gym instead. It may be helpful to keep a diary of what you eat and when you eat. This will help you see unhealthy patterns that you can work on.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.