Heath: Teenage girls shun exercise and nutrition guidelines

New research has shown that teenage girls are not meeting their recommended levels of exercise and nutrition.

The experts say that only seven per cent of girls aged 11 to 18 are eating enough fruit and vegetables, which could have a negative impact on their heart health in later life.

The diets of teen girls fall short of key nutrients which are essential for healthy growth. Iron intake is especially low, though teenage girls have an increased need for this important mineral.

A healthy diet and physical activity are both important for young hearts, yet only 24 per cent of girls are reported to take part in the recommended level of 60 minutes or more physical activity, seven days a week.

Regular exercise helps increase cardiovascular health by working the heart muscle. It also prevents excess weight gain, lowers blood pressure and improves the balance of good to bad cholesterol levels in the blood.

Teenage girls can be fussy eaters so cook simple iron rich meals such as jacket potatoes with baked beans, or grilled, lean steaks or chicken with a green leafy salad of lettuce, rocket and spinach and add some sundried tomatoes.

Boost their nutrient intake and provide snacks such as dried fruit, nuts, fruit juices and smoothies.

Persuade them to eat breakfast cereal fortified with iron or boiled eggs on wholemeal toast.

If your girl is a chocolate lover, try to persuade her to opt for a couple of squares of dark chocolate containing 70 per cent cocoa solids – full of heart healthy antioxidants.

Encourage your teen to try something different, get your games console out of the cupboard and challenge your cousin, daughter or niece to an interactive dance off.

Get the girls together for a fun summer picnic and an energetic game of rounders.

It may be that heart disease more commonly affects people in their middle and later years but the early stages of its development occur during youth, so help your teen to build some healthy foundations to guarantee them a longer wholesome life.

For more information and advice about healthy living, contact Heart Research UK’s Lifestyle team on 0113 297 6206 or email lifestyle@heartresearch.org.uk