Nutrition For Teens – Everything You Need To Know

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Are you worried that your teen is not eating properly and may not be getting the required nutrition? Do you want to plan out a meal chart that your teen will find interesting enough to eat? Does your teen love eating junk food and you want to encourage the benefits of eating at home?

If you are facing any of these issues with your teen’s food habits, read on to more about the nutritional needs for teenagers and what you can do about it.

Good Nutrition For Teens:

Here is a look at the main nutrients your teen needs during these crucial years:

1. Protein:

Protein is extremely important for your teen’s growth and development. It helps to build, repair and maintain the tissues in your teen’s body (1). In order for the body to grow and maintain muscle strength, it is very important to consume proteins. On an average, around 45-60 gm of protein is required. Consuming non-vegetarian food can easily make your teen obtain protein from meat and fish. Whereas, vegetarian food supplies protein from pulses, beans, soya, etc.

Some very good sources of protein for your teen are beans, legumes, soy, quinoa, meats, eggs, fish, wheat germ, cheese, and yogurt. Other foods that are rich in protein are peanut butter, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, tofu, kidney beans, shellfish, pinto beans, etc.

[ Read: Protein Foods For Teenagers ]

2. Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are a very important source of energy for your teen. Simple carbohydrates are the ones that are naturally available in fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products and are a good source of energy. Complex carbohydrates are also a good source of fiber and continuously provide energy. You should ensure your teen eats more of complex carbohydrates and less of simple carbohydrates (2).

Some good sources of carbohydrates are:

Simple carbohydrates – milk, milk products, fruits, vegetables.

Complex carbohydrates – whole grain food items, legumes, starchy vegetables, and cereals.

3. Calories:

An average teenage boy, who is not active requires 2000 while a very active child needs up to 2800 calories per day. An average teenage girl who is not active needs 1600 while an active teenager requires 2200 calories (3). However, if your teen is hyperactive and involved in many physical activities then the calorie intake should definitely be more. Calories can be acquired from eating whole grains, vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy products and lean meat.

4. Iron:

Improper intake of iron can lead to anaemia and fatigue. Basically iron is responsible for oxygen supply to muscles, proper brain functioning and developing immune system for fighting diseases. A teenage boy requires 12 mg of iron, but a teenage girl requires at least 15 mg iron to make up for menstrual losses. Foods like green leafy vegetables, whole grain, meat, nuts, etc, are enriched with iron.

[ Read: Iron Rich Foods For Teens ]

5. Calcium:

Deficiency of calcium leads to weak bones and osteoporosis in later stages of life. You teenager should get 1200 mg of calcium from the food he/she consume every day. Include calcium rich foods like dairy products, cereals, leafy vegetables, etc., in your teen’s diet. Besides, it is advisable to reduce the intake of soda drinks and overly sugary foods that tend to suck up calcium from the bones.

6. Vitamins And Minerals:

If your teen has a balanced diet, he will get his requisite dose of all the essential nutrients. Vitamins and minerals increase your teen’s immunity and protect him from various health conditions like anemia, night blindness, weakness and so on. Though your teen can get most of the required vitamin and mineral from foods, the doctor may sometimes also suggest some vital supplements for him (4).

Some very good sources of vitamins and minerals are milk, yogurt, cheese, liver, eggs, carrots, sweet potatoes, peaches, mangoes, papaya, and kiwi. Other good sources of vitamins and minerals include strawberries, guava, spinach, salmon, tuna, egg yolks, and orange. You can also add nuts, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, avocados, bananas, beans, and peas to your teen’s diet.

[ Read: Best Healthy Foods For Teens ]

5 Effective Tips To Make Your Teen Eat Healthy:

Here are a few easy and effective tips on how to promote healthy eating habits for teens:

1. Do Not Force Your Teen About It:

One of the first things you need to remember when you are trying to make your teen eat healthy is not to push the issue.

  • Talking about eating healthy and eating together can inspire your teen to eat better. Instead of making it a daily debate topic, talk to your teen about it at regular breaks.
  • Make sure you do not sound preachy or angry. Do not make it sound like a power issue but something like a heart to heart chat between a parent and a teen.
  • Encourage your teen to eat healthy by providing a variety of healthy eating options at home. Show your teen that healthy does not have to mean boring and bland. Try out new recipes as and when you can.

2. Get Your Teen Involved:

Your teen may find it easier to connect to healthier food if she is involved in the food.

  • Give your teen the responsibility of planning one meal a day. Ask her to try and include as many healthy options in the meal as she can.
  • Set her a challenge of coming up with delicious and interesting food ideas by giving her a pre-set selection of ingredients and putting a timer. Make it a game rather than a rule.
  • Shop together with your teen at local farmers’ market and encourage her to pick the items himself. To make it more fun, pick a color of the day and try and find out as many food items as you can find in that color. Bring them home and cook a meal.

3. Make Them Informed:

Your teen may be blindly following junk food habits as part of peer pressure.

  • Make your teen understand the negative effects of settling in for junk or food items that are not healthy.
  • Share news articles and health videos that show the real face of unhealthy foods. Let your teen see why foods from popular food chains are termed unhealthy.
  • Teach your teen how to read labels and then find out how many unhealthy ingredients are there in his favorite ready to eat snack. Encourage your teen to research and come up with information himself.

4. Stock Your Home With Healthy Eating Choices:

In most cases, your teen will easily reach out for foods that she can see in his line of vision.

  • Make sure you fill up your home with healthy eating options like fruits, fresh vegetables, healthy herbs and spices and more.
  • Keep fruits and some raw vegetables like tomatoes, carrots and more, in a small basket on the table where your teen can get them easily.
  • Instead of stocking up on packaged juices and such, prepare fresh juice right in the morning and keep it on the family table. You can also keep jars of fruit infused water on the table that your teen can sip on through the day.

5. Lead By Example:

Your teen may not admit it, but in most cases, what you do will greatly impact your teen’s overall behavior.

  • Make your food selections wisely and incorporate healthy eating habits before expecting the same from your teen.
  • If you or your partner suffer from any health issues, tell your teen about it and discuss what eating habits could have prevented it.

[ Read: Sources Of Nutrition For Teenagers ]

As a parent of an intelligent teenager, you need to practice what you preach. You need to have a balanced diet if you want your teen to follow suit.

Hope you liked our post on how essential is nutrition for teens. How did you inculcate a healthy eating habit in your teen? Please share your tips and advice on teen nutrition with other moms here!

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