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 40 percent of calories among 2-to 18-year-olds comes from solid fats and sugars, 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. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture; 2015. Retrieved December 18, 2015, from
[3] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.(2012). Physical activity guidelines for Americans midcourse report: Strategies to increase physical activity among youth. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved December 18, 2015, 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 December 18, 2015, from
[5] Reedy, J., & Krebs-Smith, S. M. (2010). Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 110(10), 1477-1484.
[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 December 18, 2015, from
[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Youth physical activity: The role of families. Retrieved December 18, 2015, from
Last updated: December 18, 2015