5 essential nutrients and an ideal diet plan for teenage boys

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Teenagers are full of energy, and it is important to give them the proper diet to help maintain them. If you have an energetic teenage boy at home, this post on a healthy teenage diet plan is for you. Studies have shown that teen boys need more calories as compared to teen girls (1). Although both of them need the same nutrients, the kinds of food that the boys need to consume can be different from the ones for the girls. Continue reading this post as we tell you more about the diet for teenage boys, its importance, and a diet plan that you could put to use.

Nutrients A Teenage Boy Needs

All nutrients are vital for a child’s growth, and they should have a balanced diet to achieve that. The primary nutrient groups are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Proteins, carbs, and fats are the energy sources for the body, while vitamins and minerals are essential for the overall development of a teenage boy. Vitamins and minerals can be obtained from the same foods that also supply protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

1. Protein

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  • Protein is the building block of muscles, and 50% of body weight is made of protein (1).
  • The most common sources of protein are meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes, and dairy products.
  • Focus on providing lean meat to your teenage boy since it contains adequate protein but low-fat content.

2. Carbohydrates

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  • Carbohydrates are of two types: complex and simple (2) (3) (4). Complex carbohydrates burn slowly and provide sustained energy. Examples include wheat flour, rice, grains with fiber, and starchy vegetables, such as potatoes.
  • Simple carbohydrates are sugars found in sweetened products such as cakes and beverages but are also found in healthier sources such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy.
  • Carbohydrates provide the energy that teen boys need for their everyday activities. Complex carbohydrates should make 50 to 60% of a teenage boy’s carbohydrate intake.

3. Fats

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  • Fats could be monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats, or saturated fats.
  • Monounsaturated fats are the healthiest of all and are found in foods such as olive oil, peanut oil, peanut butter, and nuts like cashews, walnuts, and almonds.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are found in oils from seeds of sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, and sesame seed.
  • Saturated fat contains the most amount of cholesterol. It is found in dairy, red meat, coconut, and palm oil.
  • Fats are essential for the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat should not make for more than 30% of a teenage boy’s diet; and saturated fat content should not be more than 10% of the total fat intake.

4. Vitamins

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  • A teenage boy can get sufficient vitamins by consuming an assortment of fruits and vegetables.
  • Teenagers usually tend to get less vitamin D than needed. Foods fortified with vitamin D (health drinks and cereal) and some exercise in the morning sun should prevent the likelihood of vitamin D deficiency.

5. Minerals

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  • Minerals are micronutrients that are needed in minimal quantities.
  • If your teenage boy has a healthy balanced diet, then obtaining the daily recommended amount of minerals from the food they eat will not be difficult. Essential minerals they should get through food include calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and iodine.

It is essential to provide the right amount of servings of different foods to ensure that your boy can get all the vital nutrients he needs.

What Is An Ideal Diet Plan For Teenage Boys?

Below is an ideal diet plan to meet the daily calorie requirements (2800 calories) of a teenage boy.

Food GroupNumber of servings a day
Whole grains and refined grains11
Dairy products3
Meat, legumes, and nuts3*

* The total of the servings should not exceed 7 ounces (200 grams)

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services (5)

It is good to know the size of each portion/serving before learning about the number of servings your teenage boy needs. Below is the quantity per serving of a food group:

Food GroupContents of One Serving
Whole grains and refined grains1 slice of bread
1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal
1/2 cup of cooked cereal, rice, or pasta
Vegetables1 cup of raw leafy vegetables
1/2 cup of other vegetables cooked or raw
3/4 cup of vegetable juice
Fruits1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear
1/2 cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit
3/4 cup of fruit juice
Dairy products1 cup of low-fat milk or yogurt
1 1/2 ounces of low-fat natural cheese (such as Cheddar)
2 ounces of low-fat processed cheese
Meat, legumes, and nuts2-3 ounces (57-85 grams) of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
1 egg counts as 1 ounce (28 grams) of lean meat
1/2 cup of tofu counts as 1 ounce (28 grams) of lean meat
1/3 cup of nuts counts as 1 ounce (28 grams) of meat
1/2 cup of cooked dry beans
2 1/2-ounce soy burger
2 tablespoons of peanut butter

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services (5)

The above diet should allow a teenage boy to have requisite calories and nutrients for healthy growth. While parents strive to provide nourishment through meals, children often desire a tasty, between-the-meals snack, which could lead to extra calorie consumption.

Is It Okay For Teenagers To Have A Snack?

Yes, children, especially teenagers, are quite likely to feel hungry between meals. There is nothing wrong with snacking as long as it is healthy like a fruit, a bowl of nuts, or any other homemade finger food. Processed foods with added sugar and saturated fats can be bad.

Some healthy snacks ideas for teenage boys could be (6) (7):

  • Ready-to-eat fruits that require no peeling of skin or have skin that is easy to peel. A few examples are apples, pears, bananas, and grapes.
  • Vegetables that can be enjoyed raw or boiled, with some seasoning. Examples include raw carrots, boiled celery, and broccoli seasoned with spices.
  • If the teenager wants something exciting, then you can consider making a homemade vegetable omelet or cook a small bowl of vegetable spaghetti.

Even healthy meals could accumulate excess calories when not restricted. Eating nutritious food is healthy when you eat in the right quantities.

How Many Meals And Snacks A Day Is Healthy?

Three meals and three snacks a day is an ideal combination to maintain a teenage boy’s healthy body weight (8). Skipping breakfast is not ideal since it provides the required calories to jump-start the day. It may even minimize the risk of overeating or binge eating later in the day.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I help my teenage son lose weight?

If your teenage son is on the heavier side and unable to lose weight, you may try these tips to help them (9):

  • Give them a diet rich in fiber
  • Ask them to avoid sugary and carbonated drinks
  • Encourage them to follow regular physical activity
  • Allocate a limited screen time
  • Watch their portion sizes

2. What is the right age for my teen to start dieting?

Cutting on the diet is not a great idea for teens without taking any expert advice. Moreover, a study reported that early dieting might increase BMI in adulthood (10).

Teenage boys have high energy needs compared to girls. They also gain more muscle mass, which gives them a muscular structure. Thus, a teenage boy’s diet should contain healthy foods from different food groups, especially complex carbohydrates and high-quality lean protein. To ensure your teen is eating sufficiently, serve them three main meals with at least two snacks every day. Educate them about the importance of healthy eating and guide them to make healthy choices while eating at home or outside. Furthermore, inform them about fad diets and discourage them from skipping meals, especially breakfast, which offers energy to kickstart the day.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. A teenager’s nutritional needs; American Academy of Pediatrics
2. Carbohydrates; American Heart Association
3. Simple carbohydrates; US National Library of Medicine
4. Complex carbohydrates; US National Library of Medicine
5.Dietary Guidelines for Americans; US Department of Health and Human Services
6. Take charge of your health: a guide for teenagers; US Department of Health and Human Services
7. 10 tips: Choose the foods you need to grow; United States Department of Agriculture
8. Underweight teen boys; NHS UK
9. 5 Ways to Reach a Healthy Weight; KidsHealth
10. Underweight teen boys; NHS UK
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Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different...
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Dr. Prakhar Nyati

Dr Prakhar Nyati is an eminent pediatrician and neonatologist in Indore. He has done his MBBS and MD Pediatrics from MGM Medical College, MY Hospital and Chacha Nehru Children Hospital, a renowned medical college in central India. A gold medallist in his graduation, Dr. Nyati has deep knowledge about diseases, diagnosis and treatment. He holds teleconsultations for local as well...
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