A nutrient-rich diet can benefit your health at any age, but it’s especially important for young adults. Through adolescence and the years that directly follow, the body and brain are rapidly growing and developing, requiring a consistent volume of healthy fuel. Here are a few ways you can fuel these changes with healthy eating habits.

Nutritional Tips to Follow During Young Adulthood

1. Aim for Three Full Meals

From school to sports, clubs, social gatherings and jobs, many teens are balancing a schedule packed with activities. Many young adults need to eat every four to six hours while awake, to provide the energy and nutrients needed for optimal function. Skipping meals can leave you feeling sluggish, foggy, and irritable, but eating well can actually help reduce stress. Pack a meal or healthy snacks ahead of time for the occasions when you won’t be home to eat.

2. Get Enough Iron

Iron plays an important role in development through the teenage years. Meat and fish are good sources of iron, as are leafy green vegetables and iron-enriched cereals. Aim to have foods or drinks containing vitamin C, such as oranges, with your iron servings, as the nutrient helps with absorption.

3. Choose High-Calcium Foods

Calcium helps to maintain strong teeth and bones. Since bone loss starts by your 20s, it’s important to start building stores of calcium at a younger age to minimize this loss later. Teens should get 1,300 milligrams of calcium daily, and can easily find it in dairy products such as yogurt, low-fat milk, and cheese, as well as broccoli and dark leafy greens. Soy products such as tempeh and soy milk also contain calcium, as do calcium-fortified foods like some orange juice and cereal.

4. Be Mindful of Fried Foods

High schoolers and college students who are on the go may opt for the easy convenience of fast fried foods. But people who eat a lot of fried foods face a greater risk for health issues like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Pack a light meal with healthy options like sandwiches and fruit so you can bypass the drive-thru and still stay satisfied. If you’re craving fast food at home, there are healthier hacks for recreating your favorites, such as baking potato wedges in the oven or preparing them in an air fryer.

5. Sip Water

Dehydration is a health risk for young adults, especially those who play sports or like to do outdoor activities. During periods of intense exercise, teens should have 34 to 50 ounces of water each hour. On other days, seven to eight cups will suffice for most people. Just be sure to prioritize water over other beverages, as drinks like soda and juice often contain added sugars.

6. Avoid Fad Diets

“The teenage and early adult years often come with tremendous pressure to look a certain way,” acknowledges Dr. Minesh Mehta, gastroenterologist. “Avoid falling into the trap of fad diets, as they often restrict calories in an unhealthy way or limit key food groups, preventing you from getting the nutrients you need to thrive.”

If you or your teen could use some extra nutritional guidance, turn to University Health Alliance. As your partners in wellness for every age, our providers are committed to empowering you to make informed choices for your health. For scheduling a visit with a primary care provider, call 762-356-4933. To schedule a visit directly with Dr. Mehta for gastroenterology related needs, call 762-356-4785.