Top 4 Foods Every Teen Should Avoid

If junk food and fast food are your teenager's two favorite food groups, it may be time to perform a complete teenage diet overhaul. Besides offering little in the way of nutrition, many junk food and fast food items contain ridiculously high amounts of sodium and other ingredients that actually hinder your teen's health.

Person eating a hamburger
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Here are the top four foods that can contribute to a teen’s health-related issues: 


While sodas may taste good and offer a burst of energy, it's one of the most nutritionally void food items out there. Packed with sugar and additives that do more harm than good.

Popular sodas, as well as energy drinks, are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and contain phosphoric acid, which may lead to bone loss. The average soda may contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar per 12-ounce can.

Most sodas contain caffeine, a stimulant that can have serious side effects. In fact, energy drinks contain dangerously high levels of caffeine for teens

Studies show that for each additional soft drink consumed per day, the risk of childhood obesity increases by 60 percent.

Diet sodas aren’t healthy either. Research has linked diet soda consumption to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Citric acid, found in many sodas, can cause teeth to rot down to their cores—especially for those drinking sodas on a frequent basis.

For a healthier alternative, drink water with a splash of real fruit juice in it. (If enjoying a fizzy drink once in a while as a special treat, opt for an organic soda with real sugar.)

Fast Food Burgers

A quick burger from a fast-food value menu provides a speedy calorie fix for many teenagers, but the number of calories and sodium in that burger is staggering.

For instance, a Bacon Clubhouse Burger from McDonald's contains 740 calories and 1480 milligrams of sodium. A quarter pounder with cheese contains a whopping 540 calories, 40 grams of fat and 1330 milligrams of sodium – and that's not even counting fries or a drink.

If your teen isn't willing to bypass a stop at his favorite fast-food joint, he can still select items from the restaurant's healthy choices menu. At the very least, talk about opting for a basic burger to cut out the majority of fat and excess calories.

French Fries

Skip the fries, too—they're a source of saturated fats and sodium overload. A medium order of fries from Burger King contains 22 percent of the recommended daily value of sodium and 26 percent of the daily recommended maximum intake of saturated fat.

Encourage your teen to opt instead for a baked fries made at home. Or make kale chips for a satisfying treat that also offers loads of Vitamins A and C, as well as trace amounts of many minerals. Baked sweet potato wedges are a great healthy choice too, offering plenty of Vitamins A and C.

Chips, Cheese Puffs, and Other "Junk" Foods

Potato chips, corn chips, cheese puffs, and other snack foods are called "junk" foods for good reason—many of them consist largely of non-food items that have no nutritional value or that may even cause health issues.

Some snack chips contain up to 29 fat oil (by weight), primarily from vegetable oil. All this fat creates a response in the brain that makes teens crave more fat. That’s why one bag of chips disappear so quickly! 

Many snack chips, puffs or crisps contain an ingredient list full of chemicals and mystery substances. If you find more than one ingredient that baffles you, it's best not to buy it. Celery sticks and almond butter offer a healthy and nutritious snack, while carrot sticks offer a quick on-the-go snack with plenty of crunch.

Encourage a Healthy Balance

Adolescence is a time when body image issues, eating disorders, and obesity can take hold. So it’s essential to help your teen develop a positive relationship with food.

Avoid banning certain foods altogether. Doing so could backfire and cause your teen to overindulge on those foods whenever you’re not around.

Additionally, don’t categorize foods as either “healthy” or “unhealthy.” Doing so will cause teens to assume anything healthy must taste bad.

Instead, provide a wide variety of foods and talk about the nutritional value. Stock the kitchen with healthy food and be a good role model. Show your teen that you value your health by monitoring what you put into your body.

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  2. Moran AJ, Ramirez M, Block JP. Consumer underestimation of sodium in fast food restaurant meals: Results from a cross-sectional observational study. Appetite. 2017;113:155-161. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2017.02.028

  3. Anton SD, Gallagher J, Carey VJ, et al. Diet type and changes in food cravings following weight loss: findings from the POUNDS LOST Trial. Eat Weight Disord. 2012;17(2):e101-8. doi:10.1007/bf03325333

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