As a teenager, your girl might want to look slim, and for her, dieting might seem a good option to try to lose weight or stay healthy and fit.
But as a parent, you may be worried if your teenage daughter is eating right and meeting the nutrient requirements of her growing body. Dieting doesn’t mean to starve or to restrict certain food groups; it is much more than that. Keep reading to find out about the right kind of diet for your teenage daughter.
In this post, MomJunction talks about the importance of a healthy and balanced diet for teenage girls.
Can A Diet Become Unhealthy?
Following a diet plan is good as it will teach discipline and create awareness of what you are consuming in a day. But sometimes, that diet plan could become unhealthy.
According to the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines for Americans, a healthy diet should be as follows:
- A diet that allows you to follow healthy eating patterns and consists of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, grains, and oils.
- It should limit the consumption of saturated fats, added sugars, and sodium intake.
- It should focus on variety and nutrient-dense food across all food groups (1).
Any diet that contradicts these points could be considered unhealthy. If a diet plan is restricting certain food groups such as carbohydrates or fats, it could be unhealthy as the body needs all of this but in moderation. So, it is not advised to follow unhealthy diet plans to reduce weight or to increase muscle growth in short periods of time.
If your girl is overweight or obese, then it is good to consult a dietitian for a customized diet plan rather than following any random online diet.
Before we jump into the diet plan, we will give you a few tips that could clarify the importance of a healthy diet plan for teenage girls.
Importance Of A Balanced Diet For Teenage Girls
Most teen girls are conscious about their weight and appearance and tend to reduce their calorie intake to maintain their weight. What you need to tell your girl is that she can maintain an ideal weight by consuming wholesome food.
A healthy diet plan for a teenage girl should include:
- Calories that the teenager needs for overall growth. The average calorie requirement for teen girls is 1,800 to 2,200 or more if the girl is physically active and plays a sport (2).
- Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins needed for healthy physical development.
- Vitamins and minerals for healthy growth.
A healthy and balanced diet helps the child develop healthy eating habits, which will aid her in the future. Therefore, you need to prepare a healthy diet for your teenage daughter.
Tips On A Healthy Diet Plan For Teenage Girls
Growing girls need more than just some food and water for sustenance. They need a complete diet that gives them the nutrition they need to grow into healthy and strong young women. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when formulating a diet plan for your girl.
1. Plan your child’s meals
Follow a food guide or make a diet chart to plan your kids’ meals. The idea is to make your child’s diet complete with the nutrients that she needs to grow and stay healthy. A complete diet is one that has proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Avoid no-carb or zero-carb diets as they can have adverse effects on the child’s health.
Also, make sure that your teen has all the meals as planned. Breakfast, especially, must not be missed, for it is the most important meal of the day that boosts metabolism and will kick-start her bodily functions too! Include fresh fruits and proteins in her breakfast as they will keep her full for longer and give her the energy to face the morning rush. Also, replace caffeine with fresh juices, smoothies, milkshakes, or an occasional cup of tea.
2. Tell her healthy fats are good fats
Since teenage girls might be conscious of their weight, they will shy away from fats. However, not all fats are bad. Fattening foods are not good for your teen girl’s health, but she must know about the concept of healthy fats that are essential for the absorption of some nutrients and the production of important hormones (3). Fats keep our body well-hydrated and are necessary to obtain a certain portion of calories that the body needs. Encourage the consumption of healthy fats and ask your teen to steer clear of trans-fats, which lead to excess weight gain.
3. Make a smart choice for ‘in-between’ snacks
If your daughter feels hungry between meals, make her reach out for a fruit, a handful of dry nuts or seeds, roasted lotus seeds, boiled egg, etc. They are easy to eat and packed with nutrients, thus making them a smart snack option.
4. Set a time for snacks
The best time for snacks is in between breakfast and lunch. Another good time is after lunch and before dinner. While some may be okay with the idea of a late-night snack, it is good to avoid them, especially if the child wants to lose excess weight or can make a smart choice.
The child may include a glass of warm milk or 1-2 pieces of soaked dry fruits like figs and dates. You can also give her sugar-free or low-sugar energy bars. Ask her to limit candy bars and snacks that simply pack in calories and offer no goodness.
5. Give a twist to lunch
Make lunch interesting for your daughter by using the same ingredients differently.
For example, you can use the ingredients of a salad, such as veggies and boiled lentils, with a tortilla roll to make veggie or meaty wraps with a dash of cheese or tangy sauces. The bottom line is that your daughter should eat a filling lunch instead of nibbling on some salad leaves and protein bars.
[Read: High Protein Foods For Teens]
6. Keep the dinner light
Dinner should have fewer carbohydrates but must not be skipped. Prepare a healthy meal but keep it light. Simple dinner options for a teenager would include vegetable or chicken soups, salads with her choice of dressings, multi-grain pasta, or multi-grain noodles. The idea is to combine nutrition with taste so that your child will eat it.
7. Prepare low-fat low-sugar desserts
Too much sugar is bad. But if your child has a sweet tooth, you could switch to low-sugar and low-fat dessert alternatives, such as low-fat flavored yogurt, fruit salads, or low-sugar sweet treats. You could also make your girl’s favorite desserts healthier by adding fruits, nuts, or crackers to it.
Eliminating sugar altogether and at once, can create a craving for sweets and lead to indulgence in sugary foods.
8. Make her drink plenty of water
Let your girl drink enough water to keep her body hydrated. Not drinking enough water may also make the child hungry more often. So, drinking enough water will keep those hunger pangs at bay and the metabolism rate up.
According to the US Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Getting enough water every day is important for your health. Healthy people meet their fluid needs by drinking when thirsty and drinking with meals. Substituting water for one 20-ounce sugar-sweetened soda will save you about 240 calories (4).”
9. Avoid junk foods
Any food that offers no nutritional value qualifies as junk food and should be avoided. Such food can lead to excess weight gain as our body doesn’t use up the junk food for anything good. It just accumulates as empty calories. Talk to your girl about healthy and unhealthy foods and explain why she should avoid junk food.
Teenage girls could become vulnerable to fad diets or come under peer pressure. But as a parent, you can help your daughter eat right and follow a healthy lifestyle. To help you with that, we have created two sample meal plans that you can use as a reference to chalk up the ideal diet for your teen girl.
Diet Plan For Teen Girls
There is no one-size-fits-all diet for teenage girls. Your girl’s diet must be prepared considering her age, weight, physical activity, and health conditions. Ideally, a teenage girl’s diet must include:
- Natural protein foods — red meat, pulses, cereals, green vegetables, and fish
- Calcium-rich foods — soya beans, tofu, nuts, milk products
- Iron-rich foods — beans, poultry, seafood, dark green leafy vegetables, peas, iron-fortified foods
- Vitamin D rich foods — breakfast cereals, oily fishes, and margarine
- Vitamin C rich foods — lemon, grapefruit, potatoes, tomatoes, and oranges
- Folate-rich foods — green vegetables, brown rice, fortified bread and breakfast cereals
Putting them all together, we have compiled a couple of diet plans that could work for your teenager.
1. Healthy diet plan for students
Teenagers have a busy schedule, and healthy meals might not often be a part of their to-do list. This diet plan includes simple, healthy foods that you can get them to eat despite their packed routines. This simple plan caters to the needs of vegans and vegetarians as well.
|Upon waking up||1-2 glasses of lukewarm water||1-2 glasses of lukewarm water||1-2 glasses of lukewarm water|
|Breakfast||1 medium-size fruit,|
omelet with paratha or multigrain bread
|1 medium-size fruit,|
cottage cheese paratha with 1 medium bowl of vegetables or multigrain bread sandwich
|1 medium-size fruit,|
or vegetable quinoa
|Midday snack||A handful of nuts or|
yogurt with granola
|A handful of nuts,|
buttermilk or fruit juice or coconut water
|A handful of nuts, or|
a bowl of steamed sprouts
grilled or steamed tuna or chicken with paratha or rice
|Raw salad, vegetable pulao, and yogurt||Raw salad, a bowl of lentils and vegetables with rice or parantha (bread)|
|Evening snack||Any fruit or handful of seeds (like pumpkin or sunflower) or|
chicken tikkis (barbequed pieces) or boiled egg
|Any fruit or a handful of seeds (like pumpkin or sunflower) or|
humus with baked nachos
|Any fruit or a handful of seeds (like pumpkin or sunflower) or steamed sweet corn or sweet potato|
|Dinner||Chicken soup with sautéed vegetables or|
grilled fish or chicken with cooked millets or brown rice or omelet
|Vegetable soup with sautéed vegetables,|
quinoa pulao or multigrain roti (bread) with vegetables
|Vegetable soup with sautéed vegetables,|
dosa (rice pancakes) or mixed lentils
Source: Nupur Agarwal, dietician
The above plan can give a teenage girl the required amount of calories, between 1800 and 2200 (2). This is only a sample meal plan, and you may replace the dishes with other foods to make a complete meal plan for teens.
This stage of rapid growth and development can go awry if your eating habits go wrong. Eat heartily but sensibly like some of the sample meal plans given above.
2. The athlete diet plan
Athletes or sportspersons would need more calories than an average teenager with a not-so-active lifestyle. This meal plan sample aims at delivering the necessary calories that they need when training for sports.
|Breakfast||Fruit smoothie with Whole wheat Egg McMuffin; or|
3 egg whites with 1 cup oatmeal and 1/2 a banana
|Waffles topped with blueberries, strawberries and topped with Maple syrup; or|
Granola and fruit with a glass of orange juice
|Breakfast quinoa bowl; or|
Sweet potatoes and yams, boiled and topped with maple syrup
|Midday Snack||Banana or 16 oz. Vitamin shake||Bunch of grapes or|
crackers with cheese
1 cup chia slurry
|Lunch||Grilled chicken breast with 1/2 cup spinach, 1 medium baked potato, and 16 oz. Water; or|
Deli meat sandwich with peppers and hummus and 1 apple
|1 whole-wheat English muffin with 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/4 cup walnuts, 1 tsp honey, and 1 cup peas; or|
Whole wheat grilled cheese sandwich with sliced tomatoes and 1 cup cucumber and tomato salad, and 1 apple
|Black bean wraps with lettuce, tomato, and olives; or|
1 serving Spiced tempeh with vegetables and quinoa
|Evening Snack||Cottage cheese and peaches||1/2 cup raisins and 1 banana||Almonds and grapes|
|Dinner||Broccoli cheddar soup and saltines; or|
Meatloaf with veggies
|Quesadilla, peppers, and hummus; or|
Large mixed vegetable salad with dressing
|Mashed potato white pizza (vegan cheese); or|
Tofu scramble with spinach and vegan mozzarella
Choose meal portions such that your active teenage girl gets between 2,200 and 2,400 calories every day, to continue training and maintain a healthy weight.
Note that these are only sample plans to give you an idea of the diet your teenage girl must be following. You can change the variety of foods and their quantities based on nutritionist recommendations, and any food allergies that the child may have.
Good eating habits=healthy children=healthy adults
Healthy diets are not just about meeting the calorie intake requirements. They are about ensuring the teenager gets the required nutrition. Crash diets might promise short-term benefits such as immediate weight loss, but such diets would cause more harm than good. Always remember that dieting is about your little girl enjoying and relishing the food she eats. So, include a variety of foods in the diet, one each from the five food groups, as required. This helps in keeping the child happy and chronic illnesses away from her.
In case you need help identifying the good food sources, do not hesitate to consult a dietician.
How did you plan your teenage girl’s diet? Let us know in the comments section below.
2. Parent Tips- Calories Needed Each Day; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
3. Dietary Fats; American Heart Association
4. Water & Nutrition; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention