Healthy bodies during puberty

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Eating healthy foods, being physically active and sleeping well are important parts of a healthy lifestyle. Read about tips for keeping healthy as you navigate puberty.

Key points

  • Establish healthy eating routines and make healthy food choices.
  • Be physically active by regularly participating in activities you enjoy.
  • Get a good night's sleep by setting a regular sleep schedule.

Puberty is a time where your body is rapidly growing and you are experiencing many physical and mental changes. As you experience these changes, it can be helpful to practice healthy habits that will provide the foundation to a healthy lifestyle. Eating properly, exercising regularly and maintaining healthy sleep habits are all parts of establishing a healthy lifestyle.

Establish healthy eating routines

Eating well is important for everyone, especially growing teens.

  • Eat three meals a day. It’s important not to skip meals, especially breakfast.
    • Healthy routines include eating three meals per day and having something to eat approximately every three hours, which can include 1-3 snacks daily.
  • Try to eat within half an hour of waking up. Skipping breakfast can affect your ability to focus during the day.
  • Between meals, plan for healthy snacks such as yogurt and fruit, cut up vegetables and hummus, or whole grain crackers and cheese. One to three healthy snacks a day can be helpful in preventing getting overly hungry between meals.
  • Eat slowly and without distractions like homework, TV or other screens. That way, you can better sense when you are full.
  • See Canada's Food Guide for recommended ratios to aim for and examples of foods that are high in helpful nutrients to the body.
  • Eat home-cooked meals with family as often as you can. Try to eat out less often.
  • Choose water. You can add sugar-free flavour-enhancing products like mint, lemon, lime, cucumber or orange wedges.

Treat foods

Eating treats occasionally is part of balanced eating and helps prevent us from feeling deprived.

  • The key is moderation. If you eat treats regularly, try decreasing how often you have them.
  • You can decrease snacking on treats by not keeping too many treats in the house. If healthy foods that you enjoy are visible at home, like berries and yogurt or cucumbers with a yogurt-based dip, you will eat these foods more often.
  • Choose healthier treats if you can or modify treats to make them more nutritious. Instead of having two scoops of ice cream, have one scoop with protein-rich nuts and berries as toppings.
  • Enjoy treats without guilt during holidays and other special events. Treats served on special occasions, like birthday cake, can be important because food plays a role in our emotional health. If we allow ourselves to eat treat foods sometimes, we will be better able to enjoy moderate amounts of treat foods when we do have them.

Think about body size in a positive way

Health and weight are not connected in the way many people assume. It is possible to have a small body and be unhealthy just as it is possible to have a larger body and be in excellent health. We can’t judge a person’s health by only looking at them on the outside. Weight is based on some factors that cannot be controlled, like genetics, side effects from medications and as a result of certain health conditions. However, there are some factors that we can control in order to be healthy. These include eating healthy foods and having a healthy body image.

  • Remember that healthy bodies come in different shapes and sizes, so your healthy body will be completely unique to you.
  • Focus on the positive changes you have made to your lifestyle.
  • Reward yourself with non-food rewards. Your hard work deserves to be recognized.
  • Be a healthy role model. If you are positive about your body, your friends and family will be more positive about their bodies. If you practice healthy eating routines, the people around you are more likely to practice them too.

Be physically active

  • Be active in every season (spring, summer, fall and winter). Embrace the outdoors and stay active indoors during bad weather.
  • Participate in activities you enjoy.
    • Choose different activities that you like so that you look forward to doing them.
  • Try increasing your current activity level. Small bouts of active time add up quickly throughout the day.
    • Aim for 60 minutes (1 hour) of activities that increase your heart rate and breathing every day. These 60 minutes can be done in smaller increments (e.g., 15 minutes) and added up throughout the day. It is also good for you to do several hours of light intensity activities such as playing, walking to or from school, or doing chores.
  • Active transportation is a great way of sneaking in some activity to your day, like walking or riding a bike to school.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend watching TV and playing on the computer to less than 2 hours per day. Start by reducing your current daily screen time by 30 minutes per day (e.g., no screen during mealtimes or before bed).

Benefits of physical activity

  • Physical activity can help keep your body healthy, develop your movement skills and build healthy bones, muscles, heart and lungs.
  • Exercise leads to better thinking and problem-solving skills, stronger attention skills and improved learning.
  • Physical activity can help greatly with maintaining mental wellbeing, by producing hormones called endorphins that help to improve mood, energy levels and even sleep.
  • Shared physical activities provide the opportunity to make friends and develop confidence in social settings.
  • Seeing and appreciating what your body can do through physical activity, rather than how it looks, is a great way to build self-esteem and a positive body image.

Establish healthy sleep habits

Getting a good night’s sleep can be difficult for some teens, especially if you are juggling school and homework with afterschool activities, having a job, household chores or hanging out with your friends. For teens going through puberty, it is recommended you get between 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

Here are some tips for getting better sleep:

  • Set a regular sleep schedule.
  • Go to bed and get up at roughly the same times every day, even on weekends.
  • Limit naps if you are having difficulties with keeping a regular nighttime sleep schedule or with falling asleep easily at bedtime.
  • Find space in your house/apartment, other than your bedroom, for completing school work, reading, playing video games and watching TV.
  • Allow yourself some time to relax and wind down before going to bed. Try some relaxation techniques, listen to music or reading before going to bed.

Watch this animation to help you get ready for a good night’s sleep.

Sleep: A bedtime story

How to use: This is a bedtime ritual you may follow every night, if you wish. It walks you through preparing for sleep. It’s best to view this on a tablet or cellphone that you can put aside easily. You may stop and start the video at any time. In case you fall asleep, keep the volume low and turn autoplay to off.

Last updated: November 23rd 2023