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JAMA Pediatrics Patient Page
May 26, 2020

Becoming Your Healthiest Self: An Eat-Well, Get-Fit, Feel-Great Guide for Teens

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Florida, Gainesville
  • 2Department of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics, University of Florida, Gainesville
  • 3Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
JAMA Pediatr. 2020;174(7):736. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.1243

Parents, empower your adolescents so they can make choices that promote their healthiest self.

Teens, getting older means making decisions about what matters to you most. Making healthy choices is a great place to start. Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental health is what makes it possible for you to do all the things you want to do.

Fuel Up

You are in charge of what you eat and drink. The traffic light system can be a helpful tool in guiding your food and drink choices. It divides foods by the colors of a traffic light: green (anytime foods) is for low-calorie foods that are high in nutrients and can be eaten freely (fruits and vegetables); yellow (sometimes foods) is for foods that are high in calories but also high in nutrients (nuts, cheese, and grains); red (once-in-a-while foods) is for high-calorie foods that do not provide a lot of nutrients (desserts, fried foods, and soda). Eat on a smaller plate (like a salad plate) and make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Make water your beverage of choice. If you are able, see a registered dietitian to help you achieve your nutrition goals.

Get Moving

Being active helps you to feel and sleep better. Aim for 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Most of the activity should make you breathe harder and get your heart rate up. Walking, biking, dancing, swimming, participating in organized sports, and weightlifting are a few ways to get moving and your heart pumping. The important thing is to find something you love to do and stick with it.

Chill Out

Teens often feel stressed by school, work, and other things that come up. You can manage your stress by exercising, eating a healthful diet regularly, and getting enough sleep. Engaging in relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga and decreasing negative self-talk can reduce your stress. Make a date with yourself to do something you love each day that decreases stress. Activities such as yoga, reading, calling a friend, listening to music, writing, or spending time with a pet can help with stress management.

Catch Some Zzzs

Getting enough good-quality sleep is an important part of staying healthy. Aim for 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Remove televisions and screens from your room, including your cell phone.

Set Goals

Learning how to set and stick to goals is an important life skill. First, identify your goal and write it down. List the things that need to be completed to obtain that goal, and start working on tasks that will help you toward that goal. When your goal has been met, treat yourself with a nonfood reward, such as spending the day with a friend, buying yourself a new water bottle, or going on a hike.

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Article Information

Published Online: May 26, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.1243

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Cardel reports grants from National Institutes of Health during the conduct of the study; personal fees from WW outside the submitted work; and serves as a consultant for Novo Nordisk but does not accept personal or professional income for this activity. Dr Kelly reports nonfinancial support from AstraZeneca and unpaid consulting for Novo Nordisk, Vivus, and WW outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.

2 Comments for this article
Emotional Health and Wellbeing of our Adolescents
Aki Nilanga Bandara, BSc | University of British Columbia
It is also utmost important that we promote teen emotional health and well being. Health care providers are the first people families turn to for concerns about behaviors or emotions. Health care provider’s trusting relationship with teen patients and their parents can encourage parents to share concerns (1). Be alert to the signs and symptoms of emotional and behavioral problems among young children (1). Every child consultation is an opportunity for a “teachable moment”. Whenever possible it is necessary to include tobacco, cannabis and vaping screening as part of routine clinical assessments and educate our children about the enormous harm nicotine can bring to their healthy life styles, and emotional health. A tobacco-free lifestyle is probably singlehandedly the best lifestyle strategy to. enhance our children's overall health. This really highlights how important it is to stay away from vaping. Therefore, we need creative strategies to put our children on a path to a healthy, tobacco-free lifestyle and ensure that young leaders influence future tobacco control policies globally (2-4). Engaging adolescents about their desire to change health behaviors and referring them to further support can make it more likely for them to make and sustain behavioral change (1, 5).


(1). Tips to Promote Social-Emotional Health Among Young Children- https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Mental-Health/Documents/SE-Tips.pdf
(2). Bandara AN. Understanding adolescent perception on e-cigarettes is vital. Am J Public Health 2016;106:e13.
(3). Bandara AN, Jhauj R, Mehmoush V. The major causes of death in children. N Engl J Med 2019;380:1384-1385.
(4). Bandara AN. The consultation of youth in the public health care policy-making process. Can J Public Health 2016;107:e216.
(5). Lawson PJ, Flocke SA. Teachable moments for health behavior change: A concept analysis. Patient Educ Couns 2009;76:25-30.
Which one is first?
Abbas Esmaeili-Tamandegani |
Many people are aware of the importance of all of these factors in building a healthy lifestyle. The question is which one is the prerequisite to the other ones to start with. Evidence is showing that sleep is the one that should be corrected first. Parents and teenagers should be educated about sleep facts, sleep-nutrition relationships, sleep-physical activity associations, and sleep-happiness connection. Sleep is the priority. First, put the sleep bricks correctly and then, you can build the whole home of body health appropriately.