Heather is a 17-year old nutrition nerd and enthusiastic paleo home cook blogging at Cook It Up Paleo . She is also the author of the ebook Grain-Free Family Favorites. Heather loves to cook and educate her friends and family about real food. Connect with Heather on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Teenagers are not usually expected to take control of their own health, or have much in the way of willpower. They think diets are for grown-ups. Most teenagers don’t give a hoot about how much B12 is in liver, or how essential to health fat-soluble vitamins are. Trust me, ask most teenagers to name two food sources of vitamin D, and you’ll get a pretty blank stare.
That’s why people are surprised when they find out that, at 17 years old, I am passionate (ok, you can say it: geeked-out) about nutrition. That I lose sleep over whether or not I get an optimal glycine/methionine balance in my diet, or sometimes lay awake at night dreaming up delicious ways to incorporate resistant starch into recipes.
Some of the teenage non-interest in nutrition is the aversion to being different. I have celiac disease, so I really don’t have a choice. I’ve learned that eating paleo/primal/gluten-free during adolescence can be awkward sometimes, but it’s also given me chances to educate others, as well as find my passion for healthy cooking. I want to reach out to any kids/teenagers who may be reading this (or perhaps their parents) with the message that eating real food is appropriate and possible for all ages, and that includes teenagers.
Making the decision to eat paleo can create some social awkwardness. “Why aren’t you eating the bread?” is a very common question. “But what about all that fat?” “What’s gluten?” Sleepovers and parties are especially difficult. Often people want you to eat something because if you don’t, it makes you different, and that makes them insecure. I usually just stick with saying that I eat whole, unprocessed foods and leaving it at that. Anyone who questions further is either being a jerk or is actually hungry for information.
Which leads me to the amazing perks of eating real food. I have an amazing friend who was really curious about what this whole paleo thing was all about, and why I was eating all this butter but nixing bread and crackers. She actually went down a pretty deep Internet rabbit hole of research trying to figure out what I was talking about, and now her entire family is paleo! Never underestimate the impact your choices have on others!
Another huge reason to eat real food is that this lifestyle is just that: it’s a lifestyle. It’s not a juice cleanse crash diet for junior prom (you know who you are); if you want a gluten-free treat, you can have that. You will know the consequences thereof, but you will probably have that flexibility to kick up your heels once in a while and enjoy life, knowing that in the morning there’s a plate of bacon and eggs waiting for you. Paleo is about cultivating healthy habits for life, and it could potentially save you from a lot of problems down the road.
Paleo is about health. Period. Making your health your priority doesn’t just yield you obscure benefits like a better mindset for the future; you will feel better. You will look better. Your digestion could improve. Your headaches. Your acne. Brittle nails. Allergies. On a personal note, I no longer suffer from migraines. All of those little things that you just thought you had to live with. Imagine living a life free of blood sugar ups and downs. Feeling full of energy. Sleeping well. This is what living healthy feels like. Believe me, once you’ve experienced it, nothing your friend can say about how delicious that deep-fried macaroni and cheese ball is can change your mind.
Taking control of your health is empowering, no matter what your age. If you have a computer, pen, and paper, you have the power to make yourself healthier. You don’t have to be a nutrition nerd like me. You don’t even have to be a great chef. Being healthy is something we should never put off. Being a real food teenager can be interesting sometimes, but I encourage teens out there to give it a shot; it’s worth it.