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Healthy Eating and Juvenile Arthritis

Learn which foods to eat to stay healthy with JA.

Eating a healthy diet is important for anyone, but it’s even more important when you’re a teen. That’s because your body is still developing, and you need the right balance of nutrients to help you grow into a strong, healthy adult. As a teen with JA, eating healthy can also help you deal with challenges from your arthritis. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to put on your plate.

Choose Foods Rich in Calcium and Vitamin D

You develop about 50 percent of your total bone mass in your teen years, but JA can interfere with that process. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D will help you build strong bones.

Generally, kids nine and up should get about 1,300 mg of calcium daily. But teens with JA need about 1,500 mg a day. To put that in perspective, an eight-ounce glass of milk has about 280 mg of calcium and a cup of cooked broccoli has 180 mg of calcium.

Here are some other great sources of calcium:

  • Dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc.)
  • Salmon
  • Almonds
  • Calcium-fortified foods like oatmeal, tofu, soy milk and orange juice
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Chickpeas (pass the hummus please!)
  • Broccoli

You may have read somewhere that dairy causes arthritis, but there isn’t enough evidence to prove this. It’s true some people find avoiding dairy helps symptoms, but these people are usually lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy. If you want to try ditching dairy, talk to your doctor first and make sure you eat plenty of other calcium-rich foods.  

Your body produces vitamin D naturally when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but you can also get vitamin D from fatty fish like salmon or tuna. Most milk in the U.S. has vitamin D added to it. Taking a vitamin D supplement is okay, but not necessary. Always talk to your doctor first before trying any supplement.

Taste the Rainbow

You know fruits and veggies are healthy, but iceberg lettuce, French fries and ketchup won’t cut it. Colorful fruits and vegetables are higher in antioxidants and polyphenols, both of which may protect against inflammation, one of the root causes of pain and discomfort in arthritis.  Fruits and veggies are also high in fiber, which can help keep you fuller for longer and maintain a healthy body weight.

Powerful Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient, which means you can’t live without it. It keeps your cells healthy and is one of the main building blocks of bone, muscle, cartilage, skin and blood. It’s also involved in most every bodily function you have, including keeping your immune system strong – which is even more important for kids and teens with JA.

Nearly every food contains some amount of protein, but some sources are better than others. Choose lean proteins like wild-caught seafood and white-meat poultry such as chicken and turkey. Beans, eggs, lentils, nuts, nut butters, soybeans, tofu and low-fat dairy products are all great sources, too. When possible, avoid processed meats like bacon, deli meats, jerky and sausages, which can be full of unhealthy additives and preservatives. Some studies show that the saturated fat in red meat may also trigger inflammation. So, think of steaks and hamburgers as an occasional treat and choose lean cuts when you do.  

Healthy Fats

Fat gets a bad reputation, but everyone needs some fat in their diet to stay healthy. Like protein, fat is an essential nutrient and helps keep your cells healthy. It helps your body absorb important nutrients, like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Certain fats, like omega-3 fats (found in fatty fish, walnuts and chia seeds), are also important for brain and heart health and can help reduce inflammation, too.

But this doesn’t include the kinds of fats found in greasy fast foods or processed junk foods. These types of foods can be loaded with “bad” fats like trans fats and saturated fats, which can trigger inflammation and cause weight gain.

These sources of “good” fats should be a part of your regular diet:

  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
  • Avocado
  • Nuts (especially walnuts and almonds)
  • Nut butter (peanut butter and almond butter)
  • Olive oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed

Sip on a Smoothie

Sometimes arthritis-related symptoms like fatigue, jaw problems, medication-related nausea and stomach pain can make eating seem like a chore. On days you don’t feel like eating, sipping on a smoothie is an easy nutrient-boost. The recipe below is a great source of vitamins, protein, calcium and healthy fats to keep you strong. You can also experiment with your own recipes by choosing different fruits, veggies and healthy fats like avocado and almond butter.

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie

  • 1.5 cups of milk (your choice - dairy, almond, soy, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or a scoop of chocolate protein powder 
  • 1 cup spinach (you won't taste it, promise!)

Blend, serve and enjoy!

 

About Me: Stories by Teens With JA

 
Drake M.

Drake M., Age 14

I am a wrestler, football player and I do everything else any other 14 year old boy does.

Read Drake M.'s Story
 
Crystal

Crystal, Age 13

Hi, I'm Crystal. I was diagnosed with JIA (Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis) almost 2 years ago.

Read Crystal's Story
 
See All Stories by Teens With JA
 
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Healthy Eating and Juvenile Arthritis

Learn which foods to eat to stay healthy with JA.


Eating a healthy diet is important for anyone, but it’s even more important when you’re a teen. That’s because your body is still developing, and you need the right balance of nutrients to help you grow into a strong, healthy adult. As a teen with JA, eating healthy can also help you deal with challenges from your arthritis. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to put on your plate.

Choose Foods Rich in Calcium and Vitamin D

You develop about 50 percent of your total bone mass in your teen years, but JA can interfere with that process. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D will help you build strong bones.

Generally, kids nine and up should get about 1,300 mg of calcium daily. But teens with JA need about 1,500 mg a day. To put that in perspective, an eight-ounce glass of milk has about 280 mg of calcium and a cup of cooked broccoli has 180 mg of calcium.

Here are some other great sources of calcium:

  • Dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc.)
  • Salmon
  • Almonds
  • Calcium-fortified foods like oatmeal, tofu, soy milk and orange juice
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Chickpeas (pass the hummus please!)
  • Broccoli

You may have read somewhere that dairy causes arthritis, but there isn’t enough evidence to prove this. It’s true some people find avoiding dairy helps symptoms, but these people are usually lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy. If you want to try ditching dairy, talk to your doctor first and make sure you eat plenty of other calcium-rich foods.  

Your body produces vitamin D naturally when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but you can also get vitamin D from fatty fish like salmon or tuna. Most milk in the U.S. has vitamin D added to it. Taking a vitamin D supplement is okay, but not necessary. Always talk to your doctor first before trying any supplement.

Taste the Rainbow

You know fruits and veggies are healthy, but iceberg lettuce, French fries and ketchup won’t cut it. Colorful fruits and vegetables are higher in antioxidants and polyphenols, both of which may protect against inflammation, one of the root causes of pain and discomfort in arthritis.  Fruits and veggies are also high in fiber, which can help keep you fuller for longer and maintain a healthy body weight.

Powerful Protein

Protein is an essential nutrient, which means you can’t live without it. It keeps your cells healthy and is one of the main building blocks of bone, muscle, cartilage, skin and blood. It’s also involved in most every bodily function you have, including keeping your immune system strong – which is even more important for kids and teens with JA.

Nearly every food contains some amount of protein, but some sources are better than others. Choose lean proteins like wild-caught seafood and white-meat poultry such as chicken and turkey. Beans, eggs, lentils, nuts, nut butters, soybeans, tofu and low-fat dairy products are all great sources, too. When possible, avoid processed meats like bacon, deli meats, jerky and sausages, which can be full of unhealthy additives and preservatives. Some studies show that the saturated fat in red meat may also trigger inflammation. So, think of steaks and hamburgers as an occasional treat and choose lean cuts when you do.  

Healthy Fats

Fat gets a bad reputation, but everyone needs some fat in their diet to stay healthy. Like protein, fat is an essential nutrient and helps keep your cells healthy. It helps your body absorb important nutrients, like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Certain fats, like omega-3 fats (found in fatty fish, walnuts and chia seeds), are also important for brain and heart health and can help reduce inflammation, too.

But this doesn’t include the kinds of fats found in greasy fast foods or processed junk foods. These types of foods can be loaded with “bad” fats like trans fats and saturated fats, which can trigger inflammation and cause weight gain.

These sources of “good” fats should be a part of your regular diet:

  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
  • Avocado
  • Nuts (especially walnuts and almonds)
  • Nut butter (peanut butter and almond butter)
  • Olive oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed

Sip on a Smoothie

Sometimes arthritis-related symptoms like fatigue, jaw problems, medication-related nausea and stomach pain can make eating seem like a chore. On days you don’t feel like eating, sipping on a smoothie is an easy nutrient-boost. The recipe below is a great source of vitamins, protein, calcium and healthy fats to keep you strong. You can also experiment with your own recipes by choosing different fruits, veggies and healthy fats like avocado and almond butter.

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie

  • 1.5 cups of milk (your choice - dairy, almond, soy, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or a scoop of chocolate protein powder 
  • 1 cup spinach (you won't taste it, promise!)

Blend, serve and enjoy!