Teen Health, Weight, Energy, Sports & Stress

May 8, 2021

1 in 3 adolescents between the ages of 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder and the rate is increasing. If you’re a parent and wondering what you can do to prevent this from happening to your children, listen in. Two nutritionists (one a mom of three preteens herself) are chatting all about teen health, from weight issues and wanting that perfect body; about energy; about excelling in sports; and about all of the stress of missing school and their friends. Listen in, this hour is not to be missed

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TERESA: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. If you are a parent with a teenage child or young adult, or you are a grandparent concerned with the mental health or behavior of a grandchild, I encourage you to stay tuned because the life of a teenager can be tough. It has been especially tough this last year with the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. How tough are these teen years? Well, nearly one in three of all adolescents between the ages of 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder according to the National Institutes of Health. That's one in three adolescents between those ages of 13 to 18, who will experience an anxiety disorder. And the rate is increasing. As a healthcare professional, I worry about what is happening to our young people. And as a parent of three preteen children, I ask myself, “What can I do as a parent to prevent a stress or anxiety disorder in my kids?” Today, we want to talk about teen health, about their weight issues and wanting that perfect body, about energy, about excelling in sports and about all of the stress of missing school, missing their friends. If you are a parent of a teen or you’re a grandparent of a teenager, stay with us because there is a lot of information that we will be covering today. Well, after all of that, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Teresa Wagner, and as a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, I know and respect the impact food has on our brain and on our behavior. I think one of the best ways to understand how food affects behavior is to hear directly from a person who experienced terrible anxiety as a teen and who is now a licensed nutritionist. She helps both young and older people achieve better brain health. Joining me today is Elizabeth Leppart. Elizabeth is a Licensed Nutritionist with a master's degree in clinical nutrition and works at our Wayzata office. Although our offices are still closed due to COVID, Elizabeth and the rest of the Nutritional Weight and Wellness dietitians and nutritionists are still meeting with clients via phone or Zoom. Now, Elizabeth, as I alluded to before you have a very real and up close understanding of anxiety and the teen brain.


ELIZABETH: That's right. And thanks for the introduction, Teresa. So yes, I'm happy to be here with you today because like you explained as a, as a child and teenager, I did experience some, some anxiety. So I'm happy to share my personal experience with our listeners today. Especially if it can even help just one child or teen; though I bet it'll help a lot more than that hopefully. So to give you a background of my childhood, I always started my day with a bowl of box cereal and skim milk, pretty much without exception. I'm sure a lot of people can relate. But by the end of first period of school, I could no longer focus. I could hardly keep my eyes open. I dragged myself through the school day because I had no energy and I had a hard time focusing.


TERESA: You know, as a dietitian, I can totally understand why you became anxious and you were unable to focus whenever you ate that typical cereal and skim milk breakfast that so many teens eat. Those are two among many reasons why I, as a mom, strongly encourage my kids to try and avoid high sugar processed foods most of the time. As a parent, I know my kids need to eat real food, like maybe scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach and a side of strawberries. But the message we want to share this morning is that nutrition plays a critical role in the ability of teens to function well; teens and everyone, actually; young kids included.


ELIZABETH: Right; and as I got older, I realized that food affected my moods and my brain. So to keep my brain functioning well, I needed to learn how to feed my brain the right foods; not sugar and chemicals, but nutrient dense foods containing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.


TERESA: Yeah. That seems to make a lot of sense, right?


ELIZABETH: Right; common sense.


TERESA: Well, here's some good news that you may not be aware of: some mental health programs are now incorporating nutrition plans into their therapy sessions for all ages. It's so great to see that mental health professionals are now recognizing that what we eat plays an important role in our mental health.


ELIZABETH: Right; so because of my constant stomach aches and anxiety, I became interested in understanding the role nutrition plays in mental health, such as anxiety, but also depression and even addiction. It's noteworthy to share that I could actually see myself in the teens of these studies who ate low quality diets, like cereal and skim milk. I learned that teens who ate a low quality diet have an 80% higher chance of developing depression. Wow, that, that kind of gives us some answers as to what's going on with our youth today. So with that new information, I realized I needed to change up my breakfast to say the least. I liked deviled eggs made with mayo and a little mustard. I started out maybe with just a couple deviled eggs at first, then slowly increasing to four with a banana as a healthy carb. And I felt better than I had in a really long time.


TERESA: You know, I make eggs fairly often for my kids too, but I like to switch it up, you know, especially now that it's getting a little bit warmer. So I'll make protein shakes for my kids. I use whey protein powder, canned coconut milk, or sometimes I even use heavy whipping cream. I add a cup of frozen strawberries and also a scoop of the Key Greens for kids. I don't know if you've had that one, but it's the, I think it's the fruit punch.


ELIZABETH: It’s Fruit Punch. Yeah.


TERESA: I actually put it in, just put it in water and drink it myself.


ELIZABETH: Yeah, I've seen you do that around the office.


TERESA: And I do it, you know, I do it for myself because it's so good for, for anyone, but for my kids, you know, it just intensifies that fruity flavor that the strawberries give it. And I don't know if you've noticed this, Elizabeth, but when you put frozen fruit, particularly strawberries into protein shakes, they're not the most intensely sweet flavor. And a lot of times that's what people are going for with those protein shakes. So adding those Key Greens helps to increase the sweetness without increasing the sugar. And it also just has a ton of antioxidants in it, which, you know, we can always use more of.




TERESA: And I like this breakfast for my kids because I know that they're getting protein from the protein powder. They're getting healthy carbs from those strawberries. And then, you know, that really good fat that comes in that full fat canned coconut milk or in the heavy whipping cream. And plus my kids like them, which that's always a bonus because the last thing I want to do before school is have an argument about what we're going to be eating.




TERESA: And really they do really tastes a lot like ice cream shakes, you know, like a frozen shake. But instead of being an unhealthy treat, it's actually brain-healthy food and super tasty. Of course it's a little bit more work than pouring some cereal into a bowl with some skim milk. But I believe if I put the time in now then in their teen years, maybe it'll be a little bit easier, at least I hope so because you know, I, I feel so bad for you Elizabeth, as you're telling your story, because it's just, I mean, that's just a really tough way to be living as a teen. There's so much else going on in those teenage years to have to be worried about what you're eating and how it affects that. I mean, it's just, it's tough. So anyway, Elizabeth, let's move on to lunch. What was a typical school lunch for you?


ELIZABETH: Right. So this might sound familiar to some listeners, but I basically ate just high carb, processed lunches. So if I were to bring my own from home, it would be always be a PB and J with some chips or fruit snacks. School lunches, you know, we know what that looks like: chicken nuggets, pizza, grilled cheese, mac and cheese. Basically my two food groups were bread and cheese growing up.


TERESA: I think a lot of people are saying, oh, that sounds delicious.


ELIZABETH: Right? Well maybe at the time, but it didn't really serve me so.


TERESA: Well, right. And you know, there are other things that are delicious too.


ELIZABETH: Yes. So now getting to the downside of that, you know, after I, I ate lunch at school, I would always get a stomach ache to the point where I literally kept Tums in a Ziploc in my front pocket and would chew them the day to calm my stomach and ease my discomfort.


TERESA: Oh no. Are you serious? As a seventh grader, you were walking around with Tums in your pocket. That makes me so sad.


ELIZABETH: It’s a true story. It was kind of like my comfort at the time, I guess, to just have those in my pocket. So the vicious cycle of stomach aches and anxiety was just basically a constant for me. And like you said, Teresa, like, isn't middle-school hard enough with the, with the anxiety? Do you really need to add the food component in? So, you know, I had so much anxiety that I even developed some OCD habits to control my anxiety. And that, you know how OCD is, it ends up controlling you at times. So I battled this poor relationship with food really into early adulthood. And it just goes to show you, if you don't understand how food affects how you feel at a young age, it can lead to serious consequences down the road into adulthood. Because of all the suffering from eating the high carb, high processed foods through many of those years, my goal is to now help kids and teens I work with to avoid going through what I went through.


TERESA: Well, I think that that sounds like a, a worthy thing to do. Well, okay. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. I am Teresa Wagner. I am a Licensed and Registered Dietitian. And co-hosting today with me is Licensed Nutritionist, Elizabeth Leppart. We are discussing teen health, their weight, their energy, their physical fitness, and their stress and anxiety.




ELIZABETH: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. As a teenager, I was confused about what caused weight gain. I thought maybe if I added an avocado to my burger or put butter on a baked potato or poured full fat olive oil dressing on my salad, that would make me gain weight.


TERESA: I was the same way, Elizabeth.


ELIZABETH: Those fat-free salad dressings. Right? Little did I know that the fat free cookies, fat-free pretzels and fat-free yogurt and low fat chocolate skim milk are the culprits that really put on the pounds. Carbs, especially processed carbs, are the primary cause of weight gain, not the dietary good fats that you maybe grew up hearing about. I recommend giving up soda completely because really soda is the number one product on the market that causes unwanted weight gain. If you are someone who's hooked on soda, I can help you eliminate soda from your diet and you will start to feel better about yourself. I know because I've been there. So if you need to, if you need help giving the soda habit a break, give us a call at (651) 699-3438 to set up an appointment. So before break, Teresa, we were talking about how my food habits caused anxiety and even more specifically OCD tendencies that end up really controlling your life. And it's that vicious cycle. So I think you were to start talking about maybe you know, why the brain acts that way when you're eating this kind of food.


TERESA: Right, because what you've been saying really reminds me of a book that I've been reading. It's called Brain Maker and it's by Dr. David Perlmutter. It's a great book to help you understand that gut/brain connection. So in chapter three, it's titled “Is your belly depressed?” In this chapter, Dr. Perlmutter talks about what can set up children and adults to become anxious or depressed. For instance, perhaps your anxiety or depression is from being on a few rounds of antibiotics, or maybe it's from eating a high carb processed food diet, like some of the things we were talking about you were eating Elizabeth, you know, the mac and cheese, the pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; and all that kind of, all those kinds of foods that maybe those things, because there is a direct connection between what we eat and how we feel. And there is a direct connection between the health of our gut microbiome and the health of our brain. So, so it's a very interesting book if you want to check that one out. It is called the Brain Maker by Dr. Perlmutter.


ELIZABETH: Yep. That's a great one. So, and you know, I'm really, of course, truly interested in that gut/ brain connection as you're hearing today. I was so miserable with all of my stomach aches and anxiety. I decided I really had to get an answer, you know, so much so that I pursued higher education, and here I am. This is my career. So that's how serious I was about finding out what was really going on with me. You know, I'm happy to say today that I no longer get stomach aches and I know how to eat to feel my best. And it's important for everyone to know that practicing good eating habits is a choice I make and a habit that I practice through the day and that we as nutritionists and dietitians, we still do have to make this a habit and a practice to eat this way. So I'm not cured from anxiety, depression, stomach aches, you know, that poor relationship with food. It's not that all of a sudden I figured it out and I'm cured of it. If I don't practice these good eating habits every day, I can easily fall back to feeling anxious and depressed again and to have that digestive discomfort. I tell my teenage clients, I wish I knew back then when I was their age what I know now, because it would have saved me a lot of trouble and a lot of pain physically and emotionally, really for so many years.


TERESA: Yeah. And you told us a little bit about the changes you made: deviled eggs instead of cereal, eating regularly, you know, four to five times a day instead of skipping meals. What are some of the other habits you are now practicing? And what was the first step you took to reduce that anxiety level?


ELIZABETH: Well, I started learning about food and anxiety. You know, one of the first steps was even not so much about food, but actually vitamin D, one of our favorite vitamins that we talk about a lot. I discovered my vitamin D level was really low. And from reading reports about depression and vitamin D, I knew I needed to raise my vitamin D level.


TERESA: Yes, and many people think of vitamin D as a supplement needed for bone health because vitamin D along with vitamin K2 helps with the absorption of calcium into our bones and teeth. But through research, we now know that there are vitamin D receptors throughout the entire central nervous system. And that vitamin D helps to regulate an enzyme in the brain, which is involved in manufacturing neurotransmitters. So neurotransmitters are those little chemical messengers that help us feel things and vitamin D is needed for the production of those neurotransmitters or brain chemicals. We can, you know, call them by name, specifically, serotonin and dopamine. And those two, well, those are natural antidepressants.


ELIZABETH: And I learned that vitamin D is actually a hormone. When people are out in the sun, they can make vitamin D naturally through the liver. But you know, a lot of times teens spend a lot of their times inside with the screen time, or, you know, even as you know, us living in a Northern climate, we're not really getting sun exposure most of the year. So, especially for those of us in a Northern climate, or if you're just not getting that sun exposure, you're probably deficient in vitamin D and you know, it's something to this day I just kind of across the board, recommend to my clients. Basically, most of us at least here in Minnesota, just aren't getting that vitamin D. So it's, it's one of those things that I always take every day, you know, to this day. So…


TERESA: Yeah, I totally agree. I recommend it to everyone too. Generally throughout the year, maybe I'll, I'll bump it down a little bit in the summer, but I believe in order to get adequate vitamin D from the sun, you have to be outside in the sun in like bathing suit swimwear, you know, so a lot of skin exposure, between the hours of 10 and two, which are the exact hours that the dermatologist says, stay inside.


ELIZABETH: And in July, probably.


TERESA: Right.


ELIZABETH: You can't go out in December at noon and get the right vitamin D.


TERESA: No, because the sun, the angle of the sun is not at the correct angle, I believe for the synthesis. And really, it's not just for us in Minnesota. I believe it's everybody who lives North of Atlanta.




TERESA: So, I mean, that's the majority of the United States is not getting the adequate vitamin D levels. Do you remember how long it took you to raise your vitamin D level? Was that something that you remember or was it just over time?


ELIZABETH: You know, I think just over time. I don't have a specific timeframe. And it can really vary from person to person. So, you know, that's something that the only way to know is to really get your blood drawn, get tested, and then we can give you recommendations from there as to how much you should be taking every day. So it's something even every six months I think is important to really get that number checked, because it's so important for my case for mental health, but really for, as we're learning now so much with immunity, and just overall health support. So…


TERESA: Yeah. And I tell my clients too, this is another thing to keep in mind: test your vitamin D in the spring. That's when it will be the absolute lowest.




TERESA: Because if you get it tested in the fall, you had the entire summer worth of sun. And so it could be, not that it's an artificial high, it's a true, you know, it's truly high because of the sun, but it might, you might assume that if it's normal in September, that it will also be normal in January, which it'll probably drop off through those months. So I say, get, if you, if you can try to have it done in the spring, cause that'll probably give you a better, a better idea of how your vitamin D levels are through the majority of the year.


ELIZABETH: That makes sense. Well, for better mental health, most health professionals recommend having your vitamin D between 60 and 80; like I said, which usually means supplementing daily to get to that level.


TERESA: Yep, exactly. And generally, you know, on your labs, if you are above 30, it'll say that you're normal. So really know your number. A lot of times you get that check mark, or it's not flagged as, as low. So really know that number between 60 and 80 is really, really important. And I have seen it with clients where that is, that is the thing that, that changes, that really is the key to change.


ELIZABETH: And it's such a simple solution. It's not an expensive thing to take either.


TERESA: No. Yeah. I think ours is $11 for two months worth. So $5.50 a month is, is very affordable for most people. Okay. So teens generally, if we're switching back to our topic; teens who are depressed or who are highly anxious often look a whole lot different than adults who are depressed and anxious. Depressed, depressed adults will actually look and act sad a lot of the time, but teens really, they, they're better at hiding that sadness. You know, they might not be moping around or not acting sad, but it might show up more as irritability. They can be extremely sensitive to criticism or can have frequent outbursts or often complain of aches and pains; just general body pain. So we're going to talk about this a little bit more, but it is time for our next break. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. And today we are discussing teen health. Have you ever noticed the frequent news reports about the rapid rise in anxiety, depression, and addiction in both teens and adults? The cause of this sharp rise is often said to be, you know, from the lack of in-person education opportunities or not being able to participate in team sports, which I think are legitimate reasons why people are feeling more anxious and depressed now. But I have yet to see the rise in mental health issues being related to what teens are eating for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner. No one is pointing the finger at processed boxed foods or at the fast food drive-through lanes that are amazingly long these days, or the boxes of dry cereal. Dr. Amen, a well-known author and psychiatrist says, “Eating junk food will give you junk brains. Junk food shapes adolescents’ brains in ways that can impair their ability to think, learn and remember. It can also make it harder to control impulsive behavior.”




ELIZABETH: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. In Dr. Amen’s book, The Brain Warrior Way, he says, “Scientists have found it to be pretty clear. Bad food creates a bad brain, which causes bad thinking that leads to a bad life.” Actually, I found that eating processed carbs also leads to poor gut health. You know, I was chewing Tums in the middle of school just to get through the day. And as I reflect back, all I had to do to eliminate my stomach aches was to eat real food and eliminate processed cereal and breads. However, back then, I really lacked the education about what to eat to feel better. If your teen is experiencing health issues, I really encourage you to make a series of appointments to get them on board to eating to feed their brain and body and leave the anxiety, depression, digestive problems, all behind. Call our office at (651) 699-3438, have them set up an appointment and I’ll walk them through my recovery plan to help them on their healing path.


TERESA: Sounds great. All right; so before the break we were talking about what teens look like when they are depressed or highly anxious and how we, how they may look a little bit different than adults do when they're depressed or anxious. So they might have outbursts. They might be a little bit more irritable. They might be really sensitive to criticism. I don't know. Did any of that sound like something that familiar to you, Elizabeth?


ELIZABETH: Moodiness? No. As a teenager?


TERESA: Yeah. Which is a, you know, sometimes it's hard to distinguish because that is sort of a natural part of growing up too, that there is some of that just naturally that's going to happen. But, but yeah; I think that when you're not feeling good, when your brain isn't getting the correct nutrients that it needs in order to function well, when your gut is all upset because maybe the foods that you're eating isn't working for it, I can absolutely understand how there would be a heightened degree of that irritability.


ELIZABETH: It certainly doesn't help the problem at that age for sure.


TERESA: Yeah. And maybe it shows up like, you know, maybe sometimes they just can't make their body do the dishes or take out the garbage like the parents are asking because they're just too depressed. They have no energy. They don't, you know, they, they just lack the, the, you know, internal gusto to get that stuff done because they're just, they're using up so much energy with that anxiety because it is draining. Anxiety is absolutely draining. So, so maybe some of it, you know, maybe some of it's just typical teen behavior, you know, not wanting to do, you know, chores or help out with the family, but some of it might be some of that just self preservation as well. Other signs of teen depression, or even extreme anxiety is loss of appetite. Or, you know, maybe even some eating disorder, you know? So if you think about kind of that OCD sort of things, being able to control what you can control and food is one of those things that we can control. So it can show up in that way. Maybe it's even pickier eating. So maybe only wanting to eat fat-free pretzels or licorice or those very simple carbs; maybe just sugary cereal. And maybe that's all they want to eat all day long. Maybe it's cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and dessert because, you know, it's easy and quick and it doesn't require much energy to put into it. But, you know, I would say that that's a little bit of disordered eating, just not wanting to have a variety of foods. You know, I would think that there would be some sort of natural desire for, for variety. So this form of disordered eating maybe appeals to many of the Gen Z kids and teens who are currently between those ages of six to 24, who might be struggling a little bit of from some of this anxiety.


ELIZABETH: Right. And personally, I have tried to reflect back and determine really why my personal brain chemistry was prone to anxiety and depression. You know, there are several factors for me. Like I mentioned, my two main food groups in my childhood were bread and cheese. Well, it turns out like a lot of people, I was sensitive to gluten and dairy. So these foods damaged my intestinal, my microbiome, and I couldn't digest my foods very well. Well then you throw in my Tums addiction on top of this, which further prevented my stomach's ability to digest and break down nutrients, especially those proteins, which break down into amino acids for the production of neurotransmitters. So I was low in dopamine and serotonin, those feel-good neurotransmitters. And because my microbiome was damaged, I only wanted to eat processed carbs and sugar, which made my gut, my anxiety and my depression even worse. So it's that going back to that cycle again.


TERESA: Yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, maybe this wasn't your experience, but I see a lot of, with a lot of kids with anxiety we can look back into, okay how, you know, how, how were you born, right? Was it, were you born vaginally or C-section because in that, in the delivery, there is a lot of, of, of developing that microbiome, just even in the delivery of babies. Were you breastfed or not? How about ear infections or strep throat or any of those types of, you know, continuous rounds of antibiotics? Those can really affect the microbiome. And we know that there is that gut/brain connection, like we mentioned earlier that can really have an effect on anxiety and depression and things like that. And it is a vicious cycle. And I'm sorry you had to experience that. You know, and besides the fact that antibiotics can damage the microbiome, the intestinal tract can become more sensitive to harsh grains containing gluten, just like you were talking about Elizabeth. So when teens are eating foods containing gluten, such as bagels, pizza, cookies, most cereals, Doritos, you know, any of those types of foods, they have a higher risk for an inflammatory response, or even possibly an autoimmune response. This can lead them to having aches and pains, fatigue, feeling spacey, irritable, and anxious. And maybe I should just say autoimmune response, if you're not familiar, an autoimmune response is basically the body sees the body as the enemy and starts attacking it. So, so that can happen, you know, when we have these inflammatory responses over time. But real food matters. And unfortunately many teens have strong cravings for processed junk food, and that's what they want. And it's a time in their life where they're also discovering, you know, having a lot more autonomy over what they're eating. And so they really get to choose what they're going to have. So processed foods it is.


ELIZABETH: Right. And you have that friend element too.


TERESA: Absolutely.


ELIZABETH: We were discussing, you know, how, if your friends go out to these fast foods or coffee shops, you're not going to say no. So that's a whole other influence too. They're not going to stay home and cook themselves a meal when their friends are all going out. So…


TERESA: Right.


ELIZABETH: You know, it's, it's just kind of a tough time to really be in charge of eating real food at that age.


TERESA: Yeah. Yeah. I agree.


ELIZABETH: And as I said earlier, I know now what foods I need to eat and what foods I need to avoid to keep my anxiety at bay. It's all about food science. And I'm so thankful now I understand the reasons why behind which foods can cause anxiety and which foods support energy and calmness. I understand that if I eat pancakes, pizza, I'll experience, anxiety, stomach aches, fatigue, cravings, and just really feeling crummy. But on the other hand, if I'm eating real proteins like salmon, steak, chicken, pork chops, and maybe some vegetables and butter on the side of that, I'm able to go through my day just fine researching, writing reports, you know, even jogging, laughing, just everything about enjoying life. It's just so much easier when I'm eating that real food. I can not forget to mention that eating healthy good fats is another must to fight off anxiety. So I go through a lot of grass fed butter. I put full fat coconut milk in my protein shakes; my favorite. As an aside, our brain is actually made up of fat. So if you could look inside your skull, you would find your brain is made up of fat and water. So it makes sense to feed your brain fat. And of course drink plenty of water as well. So think good fat is great brain food. Some of these good fats are butter, coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, olives, and definitely be sure to stay away on the other hand from these man-made refined oils, such as soybean, cotton, corn, canola oils.


TERESA: Yeah, all those oils that if you look on the back of packaged food items, they're full of them. So we don't usually go out and buy cottonseed oil in a jar or in a bottle.


ELIZABETH: Right. Or if you squeeze a cottonseed, it's just really not oily.


TERESA: Right; right. And so we want to stick to those things that I would say, if you can squeeze it and oil comes out, it's probably a good fat.




TERESA: If you can't, then it probably isn't. So yes. We, you know, you, you mentioned that you eat a lot of grass fed butter, my family as well. We go through a lot of butter; a ton of butter. It is probably our number one fat that we have. And, luckily everybody likes it, which what’s not to like about butter? I mean.


ELIZABETH: It's something that our clients thank us for when we say go ahead and eat that butter.


TERESA: Yes. You know, my family is pretty active and my kids, you know, they'll talk about maybe wanting to build muscles in a healthy body. And, and we can talk a little bit more about that when we come back. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. I think we may have said this earlier today, but I want to say it one more time. Most people tend to think anxiety and depression are merely psychological or emotional problems, but as dietitians and nutritionists at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we help teens understand the biochemical and nutritional connection to anxiety and depression. Real food is full of key nutrients, essential for managing stress and giving the brain its ability to function well. A research review conducted in 2019 found a poor diet high in refined processed carbs and bad fats was linked to poor mental health in children and teens. As a parent, I can tell when my pre-teen kids eat sugary treats and it's really not a pretty picture. They can get emotional. They could be crabby, or maybe they even have upset stomachs. I am definitely on the bandwagon to feed my kids foods that support good brain health. Call me at (651) 699-3438 so I can teach you that brain health starts in the kitchen.




ELIZABETH: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Teresa and I understand that changing your teen's food choices can be challenging. They often think they know more than mom and dad. But working with professionals, we're able to actually give them advice that they'll listen to moreso than maybe their parents who they would maybe roll their eyes at. I have been through making adjustments to my diet and truly appreciate that I do not have high anxiety anymore. Every bit of change that I made both big and small was well worth it. If your teen is struggling with anxiety or depression or weight issues or energy or physical fitness and sports or stress, I encourage you to make a series of appointments for your teen, so you can just be mom and dad and not the food police. Give us a call at (651) 699-3438. And let's get started.


TERESA: You know, before we went to break, we were talking about my family and going through butter and how my kids are getting interested in physical fitness and things like that. And I'm just kind of laughing at this like food police, because, you know, I try not to be, but…


ELIZABETH: But you're the dumb dietitian mom.


TERESA: That's right. That's what they call me: dumb dietitian. I always find that funny. So it doesn't hurt my feelings. So nobody feels sorry for me out there, because it really is just, I can't wait to talk to them about it when they're adults. I think it'll be a good conversation. But in any case, you know, we want to keep the processed foods out. We want to encourage the use of butter and really healthy fats in order to support brain health and good energy. We want to have long endurance and quick brain response.

You know, so, you know, the next play, if you're, you know, if you're, you know, playing softball or soccer or whatever you're playing. As a parent, I know I can keep my kids away from fast food, junk food and all those processed carbs and sugar if I, if I really try. But I really try to teach them to understand that sugar does not fuel their bodies and help them grow correctly because I can control the situation for only so long. But like we were talking about earlier, where teens become more autonomous with their eating and I want to plant the seeds now. So at least in the future, they have the education to make choices on their own, whether they use it or not. I mean, I do anticipate that they won't use all that information all the time as they get older, but just so that they have an understanding of what they eat and how that affects their body. And certainly sugar does not build muscle. Right? I tell them, if you want to build muscles, you need to eat protein containing foods and you need to have vegetables. You know, that's what the weightlifters do. The weightlifters that want to build those muscles, they're eating proteins. They’re having vegetables. They're having some healthy fats. You know, the sumo wrestlers on the other hand, those are the athletes that are eating lots of processed carbs and maybe drinking beer and all those kinds of things that are weight promoting.


ELIZABETH: You know, I remember reading a study about sumo wrestlers because we talk about them in one of our series classes. And I got to thinking, I wonder what the average life span is of a sumo wrestler. And it, I think what I read was it was 10 years less than the average person, which is interesting.


TERESA: Yeah. I mean, it makes sense.


ELIZABETH: Yeah; not in good health typically.


TERESA: Yes. Yep. Yep. And certainly if you want to have endurance to run the longest, you need to have foods that will stick with you for a while. And so that's why we encourage our athletes to include healthy fats in their pregame pre-event meals. You know, there is some timing that has to go into that because certainly it does take longer to digest and we don't want to feel awful during those events, but adding fat to your vegetables, you know, to those carbs that you're having will help that carbohydrate stick with you longer so that your muscles have energy to use for a longer period of time.




TERESA: You know, Elizabeth, you were talking about before the show today, you were talking about your experience with running.


ELIZABETH: Let's go back to middle school just for my enjoyment. No, but we were saying how I remember those races. We had to do the 5Ks, the mile runs. I would just dread those because I really had no energy to run around that track. I can still picture myself running around those high school and middle school gym tracks. And I would even often come in like last place of anyone in my class as embarrassing as that is to say, and it's, I think my gym teachers thought I was just lazy and they would be mad at me and maybe give me a bad grade. But it wasn't laziness. I just did not have the energy. I was just so fatigued. I couldn't run more than a couple minutes without just wanting to crawl the rest of the time. And the reason I share that with you is now I really enjoy jogging, running. It's fun for me. I can go long distance. It's my stress relief. It's, I've totally turned that around because my health is just so much better than what it used to be. So if you feel like you're, whether you're a teen or you have a teen that's suffering in sports and athletics, they're not destined to be that way. If you up your nutrition, it can do wonders for that.


TERESA: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, when we think about our bodies, as if they were a car, right, if you use the proper fuel, you will run better. I mean, literally and figuratively.


ELIZABETH: Well, and I can guarantee you professional athletes: one of their biggest priorities is their nutrition.


TERESA: Yup. And that's coming so much more now. I mean, I think a lot of teams have a dietitian on staff and personal chefs or team chefs and things along that line. Yep. I think so.


ELIZABETH: Before our show comes to an end today, I want to discuss the issue of sleep too. Dr. Matthew Walker, who's the author of the book, Why We Sleep, tells us that teens need about 10 hours of sleep each night. That would be nice, right? Sleep helps the brain detox. And often teens simply need more sleep to have less anxiety and depression. I have clients in their fifties and sixties who never learned good sleep habits and the lack of consistent sleep has affected their mental health. So I really focus on helping teens get adequate sleep every night, not just once in a while, because if you're lacking sleep consistently, you can't really make that up by sleeping more. Once you've sacrificed that sleep, it's pretty much gone.


TERESA: Yeah. And yeah, you're absolutely right. And just kind of to segue from that, let's talk about energy, energy drinks a little bit, because I think that those can maybe interfere with teen’s sleep too, because there's so much use of energy drinks, sports, drinks, things other than water in the, in the teen population. So I want to just to mention some dangers of energy drinks and soda and high sugar coffee drinks. One study showed that from 2009 to 2011, there were almost 5,000 calls to poison control centers regarding energy drinks.




TERESA: For something that's thought to be safe, you know, you can just buy at the gas station or at the grocery store, shouldn't that number be zero? I don't know. Another study found that energy drinks cause the heart cells to beat faster. Well, that doesn't surprise me because I've experienced that myself.




TERESA: Other adverse effects from energy drinks, soda and high sugar coffee drinks are an increase in headaches and migraines, an increase in anxiety, an increase in insomnia, so going back to what you were saying, Elizabeth. Or any other kind of sleep problem, actually; and an increased risk of type two diabetes. So, so I suppose that's associated with the sugar that is found in those drinks. You know, in, in general, a study published in the Journal of American College of Health showed that teens are more likely to take on dangerous risk when they are high on sugar and caffeine. And at first when I read that I thought high, okay; high on sugar caffeine. So I did like a bit of a skeptical reaction to that. But as I thought about it, it makes more sense. So for me as a 40 something year old, being all hopped up on caffeine makes me uncomfortable. But you know, and while I'm not going to engage in risky behaviors, I do want to do something about it. So it may make me want to go for a run. It might make me want to eat that feeling away, but I'll want to do something about it. So I can see how, if I was a teen and maybe an inexperienced driver, how that may make me drive too fast or make impulsive decisions, or how it can change the processing of the thought patterns from calm and reasonable to more rash decisions. So, you know, at first I was kind of like, okay, I was a little skeptical, but you know, in thinking about it, I can absolutely, I can absolutely see how you would make decisions differently if there's too much sugar or too much caffeine.


ELIZABETH: If I have too much coffee, and for me, that's only two cups is too much. So I try to stick with one, but I get so such squirrel brain that I could easily make a bad decision or miss a turn while driving, because my mind kind of goes to that anxious, you know, almost ADHD state from having too much caffeine. So I can totally understand that.


TERESA: Yeah. And I guess that's something to consider too, as far as you know, is it ADHD or is it lifestyle habits? Well, our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life-changing. Thank you for joining us today and have a wonderful day.

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