Healthy Weight Loss In Teens: Simple Tips And Plans To Achieve It

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Obesity is not just an appearance problem. Excess body weight has health consequences and can make life less comfortable for an individual (1). That is why, it’s important that teenagers follow an active lifestyle to maintain healthy weight.

Here, MomJunction brings you a list of tips and diet options to aid weight loss for teens. The idea is not just to lose weight, but also to lead a healthy lifestyle.

But before that here is a question you need to ask.

Should Your Teen Lose Weight?

Is your teenager obese or just a little overweight? And, how do you know if your child has to lose weight? We’ll tell you.

Our body needs a specific amount of calories every day. But when we eat more than our body can digest, the calories end up being stored as fats in the body. When these fats are in small quantities, there is no risk. Only when the fat reserves increase due to overeating, it results in excess body weight.

The body mass index or BMI is the standard index used to check if an individual is overweight, obese, or has a healthy body weight (2). If a teenager’s BMI is over the fifth percentile, he or she is considered to be overweight. Note that accurate figures of the teenager’s height and weight are essential to get the correct BMI percentiles.

You must also talk to your child’s physician and nutritionist to determine whether or not your teenager must lose weight. A plan is essential to help your teenager shed those extra kilos.

Do you have a plan? If not, we have a few pointers mentioned below, to help you with it.

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[ Read: Fitness Tips For Teenagers ]

Tips For Weight Loss In Teens

Gaining weight is easier than losing it. But you can lose weight with a little discipline and adherence to a healthy lifestyle. Following a regime ensures that weight loss for teenagers becomes easier and less stressful. Follow the list below for a few tips.

1. Have a goal

The first step to losing weight is to figure out how many pounds your teenager needs to shed to achieve the appropriate body weight within a timeframe. One way to make your goals tangible is to write them down.

Losing too little weight may not make a difference. And losing too much weight can be a health hazard. To know how many pounds or kilos your teen has to lose, find out their ideal body weight based on BMI. If your teen’s BMI suggests that he or she is obese, then it is time to lose weight and bring back the scale to ‘normal’.

2. Use a food guide

Not just what you eat, but what you don’t eat will also effect your metabolism. This will determine how fast or slow the fat burns in the body. So, if your teenager is eating the wrong foods, chances are that he or she will gain more weight. To avoid that, it is best to follow a reliable food guide provided by a nutritionist. In the meantime, you can also refer to our table on what foods to eat and what to avoid to lose weight.

3. Change eating habits

Does your teenager eat breakfast and have snacks at the appropriate time? Does she skip lunch or dinner?

Some of the eating habits that can contribute to weight gain include (3):

  • Skipping meals or breakfast – this can slow down the metabolism and make it difficult for the body to burn calories
  • Varying meal times drastically
  • Eating too fast
  • Eating everything served on the plate, all the time, and even if full
  • Always eating dessert/too many sweet treats
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Snacking before bed, eating more food after 8pm

Take time to reflect on your child’s eating patterns and replace unhealthy ones with healthy habits to help them lose weight.

[ Read: Healthy Snacks For Teens ]

4. Watch the calories – but not just eating too many!

Your body only needs a certain amount of calories every day. When you change the count due to excess eating or dieting, the metabolism rate changes and that can lead to weight gain. The best way to keep your weight in check is to consume the right amount of calories based on your age, weight, and height.

Teenage girls require an average of 1,600 to 2,400 calories a day while teenage boys need 2,200 to 3,200 (4). When the body doesn’t get the required calories every day, the individual doesn’t get the needed nutrition. Also, lack of enough calories decreases the production of leptin, a hormone that controls your appetite. Low levels of this hormone can lead to more hunger and overeating.

Low calorie diets are ineffective in ensuring long-term or consistent weight loss. Consumption of less food can increase psychological stress and release the stress hormone called cortisol, which is linked to weight gain (5). So if you want your teen to lose weight in a healthy way, keep them away from fad diets and low-calorie diets.

5. Quality counts too

While the amount of calories you consume is an important determining factor, the quality of food you eat is important too. In fact, a lot of food that adolescents end up eating gives them too many empty calories, which means zero nutrition. Here are a few things that you must keep in mind to help the teen lose weight in a healthy way.

  • The meals must contain carbohydrates, proteins, and good fats, all of which the body needs.
  • Include a lot of veggies, lentils, fruits, and other nuts in the child’s meal. In fact, ensure that the largest portion of your teen’s meal consists of vegetables and other protein-rich foods such as nuts and meats.
  • You can also include dairy products such as yogurt in your teen’s meal.
  • Pick foods that give your teen the necessary nutrients.

The bottom line is: Let your teen eat quality food, but in moderation.

6. Exercise

All food and no exercise makes Jane an obese girl. Studies show that there is a direct link between a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. Just as the body needs calories for sustenance, it also needs to burn off the excess fat and release toxins from the body through exercise. So make sure that your child gets plenty of exercise if they want to lose weight easily. Here are a few tips that can help your teen lose weight:

  • Walk as much as possible. And, do not stay in a sedentary position for more than an hour, unless you are sleeping.
  • Indulge in outdoor sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, badminton, tennis, swimming, or athletics.
  • Find a way of keeping active that your teen loves, and encourage it.
  • Develop an outdoor hobby such as cycling, trekking, hiking, skating, etc.

An active lifestyle helps lose the excess weight faster than having a sedentary lifestyle.

[ Read: Best Exercises For Teenagers ]

7. Sleep enough

Sleep usually doesn’t top the list of things to do for losing weight. But our bodies need it to maintain a healthy weight. Lack of sleep can leave you tired and lethargic, which means you are less likely to exercise. Lack of sleep also changes the levels of certain chemicals in the body that control your appetite (6). Teenagers who haven’t had enough sleep tend to snack on candy bars, chips, and other junk foods. To lose weight, ensure that your teen gets at least eight to ten hours of good sleep every night.

[ Read: Sleep Disorders In Teens ]

8. Keep your portions in check

It is good practice to encourage kids not to waste food. But encouraging them to clean their plate every day, even when they are full, is a bad idea.

Teach your kids to take small portions of food on their plate. They can always go for a second serving if they are still hungry. When the portions are small, your teen will not be forced to eat more than he or she wants to and will avoid wasting food.

9. Choose your snacks wisely

A snack or two between the main meals is not a bad idea. But snacking on just anything can be bad for your health. Teenagers may eat a pack of chips, fries, or candy bars before a meal. Snacks fill the body with empty calories and leave little space for any nutritious food during a meal. This leads to weight gain.

Replace unhealthy snacks with healthy ones such as fruits and nuts to keep the weight in check.

10. Stop chewing gum

Many teenagers chew gum constantly. While the activity can help in burning more calories, it does lead to swallowing a lot of air, which can leave the individual feeling bloated. It could end up adding to the teen’s belly fat.

Now, let’s move on to the foods your teen should and should not eat to lose weight.

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Foods To Eat And Avoid For Weight Loss

Some people tend to gain weight even if they don’t eat much, while others gain no weight regardless of how much junk they eat. Blame the body’s metabolism for that (7).

But the foods you eat also affect your metabolism? Choosing what you eat is important to maintain a healthy body weight, and the below list will helps you.

Foods to eatFoods to avoid
  • Whole eggs, dairy, lean meat, seeds, and nuts that are rich in protein
  • Chilli peppers
  • Green tea and oolong tea can increase metabolism
  • Legumes, pulses, beans
  • Spices such as ginger, cayenne pepper that boost metabolism
  • Dark chocolate or cacao
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Coconut oil
  • Water
  • Seaweed
  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, collards etc.
  • Salmon, tuna
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Soups
  • Cottage cheese or tofu
  • Avocados
  • Grapefruit
  • Chia seeds
  • Yogurt
  • Soda and diet sodas
  • Sweetened drinks, teas
  • Sweets, donuts, pastries and cakes
  • Potato chips and French fries
  • Fast food meals such as burgers, hot dogs
  • White bread
  • Candy bars, sweet treats such as M&Ms
  • Fruit juices – they have more sugar than whole fruit
  • Ice cream
  • Pizza
  • High calorie drinks including coffees and energy drinks
  • Processed foods with trans fats
  • Packaged foods with added sugar
  • White rice
  • Coffee creamers
  • Bagels
  • Smoothies
  • High sugar breakfast cereals
  • Frosting
  • Coleslaw
  • Energy bars
  • Cheese
  • Processed meats
  • Butter and margarine

Now that you know what to eat and what not to eat, how about looking at some sample plans that can help you make a customized weight loss plan for your teen?

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[ Read: High Protein Foods For Teens ]

Weight Loss Options For Teens

Not all teenagers have the same metabolism. Therefore, not all weight loss plans are the best for your teenager. In this section, we give you a few weight loss options that your teenagers can consider.

1. Weight loss pills for teens

Weight loss pills may sound like a bad idea but they may not necessarily be. There are a number of diet pills (some of them so-called) in the market. But not all are effective or even recommended for teenagers. Note that there is no miracle pill that can cut down the extra flab in your kid overnight. If there is one, it is not safe!

But are the others safe for your teen?

In the early 2000s, the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) approved the first ever prescription weight loss pills for teenagers. However, any weight loss pill should be taken only if recommended or prescribed by the physician. A healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle are also necessary for these medications to be effective.

2. Exercises for weight loss

Plenty of exercise, along with the right nutrition, is the best weight loss plan for teenagers. Regardless of what your child eats, he or she needs to indulge in some physical activity. Your teen could start with a mild form of exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga, or Pilates, for one hour a day. Suryanamaskar is one yogasana that can help someone lose weight quickly when practiced regularly, and in the right way.

Teenagers can also try cardio exercises like running, Zumba, aerobics and kickboxing at least three times a week. Strength training, interval training and cross-fit can also help your teenager lose weight and stay fit. Whatever your teen opts for, ensure that he practices it regularly for the best results.

3. Weight loss diets for teenagers

Diet is perhaps the most important factor to consider for losing weight. If your teenager is overweight or obese, then planning a healthy meal for him or her becomes essential. In this section, we give you a few sample diet plans that you can try or base your teenager’s diet plan on.

i. 1500-Calorie weight loss diet for teenagers

Ideal for overweight teenagers with a not-so-active lifestyle, this diet tells you what type of foods to eat and how much to eat to shed the extra kilos quickly (8). Talk to your physician before starting this meal plan.

Food TypeRecommended intake (quantity)
Grain5 ounces (oz) of grains

1oz of grain is equal to:

1 slice of whole wheat bread or

½ cup cooked pasta or rice, or cereal; or

1oz ready-to-eat cereal

Vegetables2 cups of vegetables

1 cup of vegetable is equal to:

1 cup whole vegetable juice (100% vegetable) or

2 cups leave greens salad or

1 cup cooked or raw vegetables

Fruits1 ½ cups of fruits

1 cup of fruit is equal to:

½ cup dried fruit or

1 cup juice (100% fruit) or

1 cup raw or cooked fruits

Protein5oz of protein

1oz protein is equal to:

1egg or

1oz of lean meat, seafood or poultry, or

½oz of seeds or nuts, or

¼ cup of peas or beans, or

1 tablespoon of peanut butter

Dairy3 cups of dairy

1 cup of dairy is equal to:

1 cup milk or yogurt

1 cup fortified soy milk or

1 ½oz of natural cheese or

2oz of processed cheese

RestrictionsIn a day, limit the intake of:

Added sugars to 40 grams

Sodium or salt to 2,300 milligrams (½ teaspoon)

Saturated fats to 18 grams (3½ teaspoons)

ActivityTeenagers must indulge in physical activity for at least one hour every day

Choose foods such that your child gets the recommended nutrition for the day. You can divide the portions such that the meals are well balanced and contain carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the right quantities.

[ Read: Detox Diet For Teens ]

ii. 21-day no junk food challenge

This diet is challenging for teenagers who tend to eat a lot of junk food. But what exactly is junk food?

Junk foods are processed or pre-packaged foods that have a very low nutritional value. So, the chips, fries, candies, and chocolates that kids like to snack on are all junk foods that contribute to unhealthy weight gain. This diet challenges your teen to stay off any such foods that are bad for their health. But why 21 days? Why not for good?

Firstly, giving up on chips, chocolates, and other such foods forever is not practical. Is it? Secondly, it is believed (by most people) that it takes 21 days to form a habit or try something new. In this diet, your child is allowed to eat healthy and nutritious food in appropriate quantities. However, they are not to consume any junk or fattening fast foods. The foods they must avoid are:

Say no to…
  • Potato chips, pretzels, or other crisps
  • Chocolates
  • Candies
  • Biscuits or cookies
  • Pastries, donuts, cakes, and muffins
  • White bread, buns, or baguettes
  • Mayonnaise or peanut butter or Nutella and other spreads
  • Ice cream
  • Soda
  • Packaged fruit juices or other beverages
  • Fast foods – pizza, burger, hot dog, or fries

Replace these fast foods and snacks with healthier options such as fruits and nuts and freshly made snacks to ensure that the child gets enough calories.

The internet has plenty of such diets that your teenager may want to try. But be aware that most of them are fad diets that are not effective. Also, a diet must be chosen carefully, considering the individual’s age and activity levels, which means not all diets you find on the internet may be right for you teenager. So how do you pick the right diet for teenage weight loss?

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[ Read: Side Effects Of Junk Food On Teenagers ]

Choosing The Right Weight Loss Plans For Teens

There are many theories suggesting that weight loss is 80% or 75% diet and 20% or 25% exercise (9). While these theories may or may not be backed by studies, one point is clear: your diet plays a significant role in determining whether or not you will lose weight.

Some things to remember when choosing weight loss programs for teens are:

  • Safety: Pick a program that is safe for your teen. Look for programs that do not change the diet drastically.
  • Preferences: Does your child follow a meat-based, or vegaterian, or vegan diet?
  • Budget: Look for weight loss diets that don’t cost you heavily. The best diets are those that let you eat a balanced diet that includes the recommended food groups.
  • Flexibility: If the diet is too rigid, your kid may have a tough time adhering to it.
  • Balance: Avoid diets that focus on one type of nutrient and eliminate the others entirely. For instance, no-carb diets, protein-only diets, fruit diets, or liquid diets should be avoided.
  • Activity: Pick a diet that also includes a regimen for physical activity.

Most importantly, pick a diet that is practical. In the end, you want your child to follow the diet and lose weight.

Weight loss for teenagers should be about losing unhealthy body weight and not about ‘figure’ or ‘attractiveness’. So, make sure that your teen girl or boy does not go on weight loss diets when they have a perfectly healthy body weight. Excessive weight loss is as dangerous as excess body weight and can lead to health consequences in the long run.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for weight loss in teens? Share them in our comments section.

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