Coming out of the medical community this week, a new connection found that a diet high in fiber for adolescents is linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer later in life. This study looked at the information from over 44,000 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II, and the exciting results will be published in the March 2016 edition of Pediatrics Magazine.
Let this be a reason to celebrate more plants in your teenaged daughter’s diet.
Translating this into actual food is quite simple:
All Plants Have Fiber…so don’t worry too much about the details
Often we think of breads, whole grains, pastas, and beans as the biggest fiber carriers. Yes, as these are great sources of fiber. But all fruits and vegetables are also loaded with fiber. Raspberries, broccoli, avocados, and olives – they all have fiber. In fact, one of the most interesting charts from the study showed that the majority of the fiber in the diets of these adolescents came from vegetables. It didn’t matter if they were eating kale or spinach or frozen green beans. They were eating vegetables, thereby eating fiber.
I have absolutely zero knowledge of what it’s like to raise a teenager, but I can remember some of the arguments from my own high school days. With all of the angst over homework, chores, and borrowing the car, the last thing needed was a battle over the salad greens.
As long as there is some sort of plant on that plate a few times a day, or a couple of pieces of fruit in the sports bag, you’re doing okay.
There is No Fiber in Meat, Seafood, Poultry, Dairy, or Eggs
There is No Fiber in Oil, Sugar, or Syrup
Limiting these types of foods has been shown to have many benefits from weight loss to reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Let their “no fiber” label add to incentives to reduce how much of these you eat. It’s simple to swap out yogurt for a Chia Pudding and to use applesauce instead of oil while baking. The critical years when a youngster is learning lessons to become an adult are prime time to practice healthy eating habits. Before college food halls completely take control with your teenager’s meal plan, set an example for choosing healthy foods. Encourage eating more plants and limit the amount of animal products and refined oils and sugars.
The adolescent years are a great time to get your kids more involved in the cooking process. Teenagers have the motor skills and physical dexterity to use a knife, peel vegetables, and sauté a stir-fry. They have the thinking capacity to scale recipes and make grocery lists. They crave the sense of pride that can be found by completing a recipe and producing something delicious. I still remember one of the first recipes I cooked for my family – Dijon Chicken Fingers. I remember my confidence in the whole process: finding the recipe, shopping for the ingredients, planning the preparation, and then finally serving. I remember trying to make it look just like the photo in the cookbook, as I was so eager to please my parents with my creation.
Using my Chef’s Insight, I offer Three Levels for an Adolescent Cook. The recipes should be familiar to a teenager and give them pride in creating something that they will forever call their own.
Beginner: Level One – Snacks
Starting at the very basic stage of just getting comfortable in a kitchen, making quick, healthy snacks is a great beginning. For someone who has never held a knife (or for a parent who is worried about the house burning down), making a simple snack will be a building block to build confidence. These Five Healthy Snacks in Less Than 5 Minutes help you get comfortable using a toaster, slicing an apple, and even introduce you to a new food, jicama. A teenager can help make sure these ingredients are added to the shopping list, prepare a big batch on the weekend, and have quick go-to eating whenever he needs.
Sous Chef: Level Two – Baking
Baking is a relatively safe and methodical way to utilize more skills in the kitchen. Baking requires a little bit more mental energy. It requires the baker to critically read a recipe, use math skills to scale ingredients, plan timing with the oven, and practice cleanliness with preparation. Baking also teaches the critical need for patience, as you must wait for a raw batter to transform into a delicious dessert.
Working with kids in the kitchen, I find that baking is a fun way to get them comfortable standing at the counter and taking charge of a recipe. Some adolescents might not feel ready to pick up a sharp knife or stand near the stoves’ flames, but they are usually ready to handle a few measuring spoons.
Most baking recipes also offer lots of room for variations. Teenagers enjoy expressing their preferences in everything from fashion to music. A simple muffin recipe also opens the door to letting them offer their own decisions, trying out variations with blueberries, bananas, raisins, and walnuts.
Mini-Chef: Level Three – Dinner
Once you have a cook who is ready to play with fire, dinner is just a recipe away. I suggest pasta as one of the best dishes to start. Most kids are already familiar with what’s involved and how it should turn out. Boiling pasta is pretty uncomplicated, and today’s options can include healthy whole grain pastas including brown rice and whole wheat. From there, a simple marinara sauce is a perfect staple recipe to have in your repertoire. Again, teenagers can choose preferences for added ingredients to the pasta or the sauce. Let them experiment with spinach, mushrooms, peppers, or even frozen broccoli. Try out my Brown Rice Pasta with Garlic Marinara to get started. Then, let the flavors and experimentation roll.
So you might not be ready to hand over the keys to the car. But hopefully this will encourage you to hand over the knobs on the stove. Let’s get more kids involved in the kitchen, both for their health and for their growth.
I learned of the news release from the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, whose objective is to offer a culinary prescription for treating disease. This is a great organization that I’ve cited on many past posts. They offer helpful resources for doctors and patients interested in adopting a plant-based solution to staying healthy. I signed up for their newsletter which sends me breaking medical news like this. Their website also offers helpful charts, educational graphics, and even a tool to help you find a connected doctor in your region.
Dietary Fiber Intake in Young Adults and Breast Cancer Risk, by Maryam S. Farvid, PhD,a A. Heather Eliassen, Eunyoung Cho, Xiaomei Liao, PhD, Wendy Y. Chen, MD, MPH, Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH, PEDIATRICS Volume 137 , number 3 , March 2016 :e 20151226: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2016/01/28/peds.2015-1226.full.pdf
About the Author:
Chef Katie Simmons
Katie is a Personal Chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. Outside of the kitchen, she is a Fitness Instructor for Equinox, with over 13 years experience in the fitness industry, and a blogger for Kuli Kuli Foods. For fun, she loves to travel, with her most recent travel involving 10 days of hiking in the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile.