Healthy Behavior

Other than the first year of life, there is no other developmental period during which individuals grow more than during the period of adolescence.[1]  These years are the time to form positive habits that will improve adolescents’ long-term health and wellbeing.  Three behaviors in particular will make a difference to support health into adulthood: eating a nutritious diet, being active, and getting a good night’s sleep.[2],[3],[4]  On a typical day, almost one third of 4- to 19-year-olds consume fast food[5] and high school students sleep fewer hours per night than they need.[6] Almost one-third of adolescents spend at least three hours a day watching television, recreationally.[7] Family factors, like siblings being active and support from parents, can help adolescents get and stay active.[8]


Resources on Nutrition in Adolescence

  • Let’s Move! is First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to reduce childhood obesity through healthier diets and exercise. Let’s Move! offers ideas for action for adolescents, parents, schools, clinicians, communities, faith-based institutions and more. 
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work Online Resource Center provides tools to support environmental changes that address obesity. These resources describe why environmental changes are at the heart of making healthy living easier, and how to execute those changes.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has several sites dedicated to helping Americans improve their diets. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes age-specific recommendations about overall calorie consumption and individual nutrient intake. helps users put those guidelines into practice.
  • provides information on all foods and has a designated page with interactive learning tools for adolescents, and resources for parents and teachers (visit - then select “adolescents”).

Click here for more resources on healthy behavior and healthy eating

[1] DeHart, G., Sroufe, A. & Cooper, R. (2004). Child development: Its nature and course. (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw, Hill.
[2] Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture; 2010. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from
[3] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical activity guidelines for Americans: Be active, healthy, and happy. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from
[4] Perry, G.S., Patil, S.P., Presley-Cantrell, L.R. Raising awareness of sleep as a healthy behavior (2013). Preventing Chronic Disease, 10. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from
[5] Bowman, Shanthy A., et al. (2004). Effects of fast-food consumption on energy intake and diet quality among children in a national household survey. Pediatrics, 113(1), 112-118.
[6] McKnight-Eily, Lela R., et al. (2011) Relationships between hours of sleep and health risk behaviors in U.S. adolescent students. Preventive Medicine 53 (4), 271-273.
[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from
[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Youth physical activity: The role of families. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from
Last updated: November 02, 2014