Better Teen Skin Top 10: What to Eat & Avoid

Better Teen Skin Top 10 written by Christine Cooke class of 2021 with Ashley Koff RD

Teenagers have to deal with a lot of things during our “teen years;” a lot of changing hormones, learning how to be an adult, and how to take care of ourselves.

We also have (some) choice in the foods we eat. The food choices we make aren’t just filling us up, but also helping (or hurting) how our bodies operate.

Skin care doesn’t just include how we wash our faces or what creams and medicine we use. Skin care also is extremely impacted by our food choices.

Here are 10 things to eat, and 10 to avoid for better skin. 

10 to Avoid: 

  1. Too much added sugar
    • A teaspoon is about 4 grams of sugar (on a label)
    • Teens should aim for no more than 4 teaspoons added sugar in a day
      • Better not to consume it all at once most of the time
      • Follow any practitioner’s specific advice for your added sugar intake
    • Enjoy nature’s sweet foods that also pack in nutrients great for your skin like sweet potatoes, apples, and berries.
  2. Tobacco 
    • Tobacco is just horrible for your skin. Plain and simple. 
  1. Artificial colors 
    • Real colors deliver nutrients – like antioxidants – that help clean up our insides and protect our skin against pollution.
    • Try to get in real red, real orange, etc.
    • A daily rainbow has tons of nutrients that can provide you with many benefits. 
  1. Artificial sweeteners
    • Artificial sweeteners are tons of times sweeter than fruit and even sugar. Like thousands of times.
    • They just make you crave more sugar and they aren’t better for digestion.
    • If you can’t quit them because you miss the sweetness, you can replace them with honey or some more non-caloric sweeteners (stevia, monk fruit).
      • note: just because they start off natural, these can be processed too and are still hundreds of times sweeter than the calorie-containing sweeteners like honey, maple syrup etc. so choose these less often.
  1. Processed meats 
    • The highly processed meats like bologna, hot dogs, that “mystery meat” from the cafeteria aren’t going to be good for your skin.
    • The key with this is not avoiding meat, but knowing where it comes from.
    • Making conscious decisions on the meat you choose to enjoy and getting in a variety of plants with your meats is better.
  1. Cow’s Dairy 
    • The quality matters. What a cow ate, how it was treated, if it spent time outside will all affect the quality of its milk.
    • Avoid fat-free milk especially if you have skin issues.
    • White bumps on the backs of arms may be your skin telling you to avoid cow’s dairy.
  1. Fat-free products 
    • Instead of avoiding fats, get them in, they are wins for your skin!
    • Instead of getting that fat-free yogurt, get whole or full-fat.
    • Choose nuts and seeds as snacks or fun toppings on salad, yogurt and berries.
  1. Energy” drinks
    • Energy drinks, especially the ones with no calories aren’t helping our skin.
    • When the label says “calorie free” it means the drink is JUST a stimulant.
    • Monitor your intake, especially if you are tired, because our skin often needs us to take a nap instead of drink a stimulant.
  1. Sauces
    • Your favs like honey mustard, barbeque, etc, aren’t doing your skin any favors.
    • They often have MEGA sugar and salt. Sometimes they also have artificial colors and sweeteners.
    • To still get extra flavor, you can replace with like tabasco or hot sauce.
    • Even better, use spices, they have nutrients that help your skin look and feel better.
  1. Fried Food
    • Less is better.
    • Avoid deep fried chicken, french fries, etc. They are low in skin helping nutrients and all the extra grease really isn’t great for your skin. 
    • Try baked or pan-fried at home instead.

PSA – Don’t feel like you need to avoid everything in this list, but these are great to try to take out as much as possible to see results in your skin. Also, avoiding a lot of these foods will not only help your skin, but other things as well, so make sure to pay attention to how you are feeling and how your body reacts if you stop eating these foods. 

10 to Enjoy: 

  1. Lemons and Limes 
    • These yellow and green fruits help your digestion which helps your skin.
    • Add them to water, use as dressings and even make ice cubes from them
    • Swap your lemonade for Better for Your Skin lemonade: 1/2 lemon squeezed in 8 oz of water with 1-2 drops liquid stevia!
  1. Orange foods
    • The real color orange packs nutrients that help to heal and protect skin
    • Tangerines, oranges, sweet potatoes, etc. 
    • Spices count as colors too! Add in turmeric for better skin 🙂
  1. Green foods
    • Green is great for skin! (Kermit the Frog thinks so too)
    • Have a little more basil, guacamole or avocados, lettuce, and broccoli than you usually do.
    • Getting in green can be very simple, like getting a little peppers on your chipotle bowl.
    • Just paying attention to how you can get in a little green will help you a lot. 
  1. Walnuts
    • These nuts pack omega 3 fatty acids – great for skin.
    • Avoiding nuts, head to #5 
  1. Hemp Seeds
    • Ashley Koff RD calls these the “Wild salmon of plant kingdom” because they pack skin healthy omega fats
    • Hemp seeds are a GREAT source of protein and perfect for working out.
    • They are one of the richest sources of “glamour fatty acid” meaning they are wonderful for hair, skin, and nails. 
  1. Dark Purple Foods
    • Their dark color does clean up and protective work to help our skin look and feel better.
    • Enjoy blueberries, blackberries, red onions, beets
    • Berries can go bad and be expensive – enjoy frozen organic more often
  1. All Nuts in General 
    • Cashews, almonds, etc.
    • Nuts are great to crumble on top of things like yogurt.
    • They pack healthy fats and minerals that can really help your skin. 
  1. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds 
    • Like nuts, seeds deliver minerals, protein and healthy fats
    • They also are a better nutrition upgrade on your potato, salads, soups and other places you may use cheese or croutons.
  1. Water 
    • Water is SO important for skin.
    • Drinking and eating water counts, but water that’s an excuse for sugar and artificial colors isn’t better.
    • Pro tip: If you space your water intake throughout the day, instead of cramming when you start to feel thirsty, it helps get nutrients into cells much more efficiently. 
  1. Probiotics 
    • Good bacteria help you fight off the bad guys for better skin.
    • Enjoy better quality fermented foods like kraut and kefir (avoid ones too high in sugar).
    • On the kombucha kraze? This bubbly may not be better. Discuss with your practitioner and don’t rely on it for your daily probiotics
    • You want to get in bifidobacteria which can be harder to get from food so talk to your practitioner and parents about a supplemental source.