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close this bookYou, Your Life, Your Dreams: A Book for Adolescents (FCI, 2000, 213 p.)
close this folderCHAPTER 5: BASIC BODY CARE
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentKeeping clean, smelling nice
View the documentCaring for your teeth
View the documentPimples
View the documentHair care
View the documentEating well
View the documentExercise
View the documentGood rest

Eating well

Good nutrition is essential for good health. Eating a nutritious and balanced diet is important throughout life, but it is especially important during childhood and adolescence when your body is growing and developing very fast.

Your body needs good food to grow and to give you energy for doing well in school, playing sports and doing work. Sometimes young people don't eat a nutritious diet and they forget to stick to regular meal times. They may skip meals and snack on biscuits, chips, sweets, chocolate and soda. These foods aren't very nutritious, and your body needs a lot more to stay healthy.

Different types of food do different jobs in your body so you need to eat meals with each type of food. The basic types of food that your body needs in order to function well are:

· "Go foods" or energy-giving foods: "Go foods" include staple foods, such as ugali (or maize meal), fufu, cassava, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, bread, rice, plantains, millet and sorghum.

· "Glow foods" or protective foods: "Glow foods" contain important vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function properly and to glow with health. These vitamins and minerals are found in most vegetables, such as dark leafy vegetables (spinach, pumpkin leaves, cassava leaves), tomatoes, pumpkins and carrots. Most fruits, such as pawpaw (papaya), mangoes, oranges and pineapple also contain important vitamins.

· "Grow foods" or body-building foods: "Grow foods" contain protein, which is called the building block of the body. Protein helps your body to grow and develop properly, especially during adolescence. It also helps the body heal and repair itself when you get hurt. "Grow foods" include: groundnuts, peas, beans, cowpeas, meat, chicken, fresh fish, dried fish and snails. Eggs, milk, yoghurt and cheese also contain proteins. Many sources of protein - meat, fish, beans and peas, along with greens and dark leafy vegetables - are good sources of Iron as well. Iron is especially important for girls and women because they need extra iron when they are menstruating and when they are pregnant.

· Fats, oils and sweets: Fats are a source of energy. Some fats, such as groundnut oil, palm kernel oil, coconut oil come from plants, while others, such as butter or ghee come from animals. Because there is so much energy in fat, your body only needs small amounts of it. In fact, eating too much fat can cause some health problems in the long run. Another source of energy is sugar, but sweets can be bad for your teeth.

Think about your diet and whether you are getting all the basic food types. As shown in the illustration on page 51, the "go foods" should be the foundation of your diet, and you should eat the most of these foods. "Glow foods" are also very important, so eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. "Grow foods" are very important, but you don't need as many servings each day. Lastly, it's best to eat only a little bit of fats, oils and sweets.


The energy you need depends on how much energy you use up. All the growth during adolescence takes up a lot of energy - in fact an adolescent needs more energy than most adults.

Energy is measured in calories. If you eat more energy or calories than your body needs during the day, the extra calories will be turned into fat and your body will store this fat for a time when it is needed. For most people this store of fat is healthy and normal. But it can be a problem if you have too much fat. Some people - especially people who eat too much food with many calories (fatty and sweet foods) and who do not exercise - get too fat.

A nutritious diet includes many different types of food, in differing amounts

In some African cities, there are more and more girls and boys who are heavier than they should be. This is partly because it is harder to take exercise in the city. It is also because a lot of fried food is eaten in the cities. Fried food can be easy and quick to prepare - it can be prepared much more quickly than traditional dishes, such as beans and stews. Even though fried food can taste good and can be prepared quickly, it is not very healthy. A diet of fried food can make people too fat, and, over the long run, it can damage the heart and blood vessels.

Try to avoid eating fatty and fried foods, as well as sugary foods and drinks.