Nutritional Needs For Teenagers

By Nutrition Expert – Trupti Gurav,Mumbai

Different people need different amounts of calories to be active or stay a healthy weight. The number of calories you need depends on whether you are male or female, your genes, how old you are, your height and weight, whether you are still growing, and how active you are, which may not be the same every day.

Your body needs energy to function and grow. Calories from food and drinks give you that energy. Think of food as energy to charge up your battery for the day. Throughout the day, you use energy from the battery to think and move, so you need to eat and drink to stay powered up. Balancing the energy you take in through food and beverages with the energy you use for growth, activity, and daily living is called “energy balance.” Energy balance may help you stay a healthy weight. [1] 

Healthy eating during adolescence is important as body changes during this time affect an individual’s nutritional and dietary needs. Adolescents are becoming more independent and making many food decisions on their own.

Many adolescents experience a growth spurt and an increase in appetite and need healthy foods to meet their growth needs. Adolescents tend to eat more meals away from home than younger children. They are also heavily influenced by their peers. Meal convenience is important to many adolescents and they may be eating too much of the wrong types of food, like soft drinks, fast-food, or processed foods. [2]

This study is published by VIMS Health Sciences Journal; Dr. Sharada C. Aher, in this small review article they present the childhood obesity in India as on today. And concluded that; Obesity is to be controlled and the government should bodly ban some of the fast foods which promote obesity. Parents and teachers and peer groups have the responsibility to tackle this problem which is not so easy to solve. [3]

The road to good health in adulthood is paved with the decisions made during the teenage years. And as teen girls and boys continue to grow, there are daily nutrients and habits they’ll need to keep them happy and healthy. [4]

The best way your teen can maintain a healthy weight is to eat a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, no-fat or low-fat milk products, beans, eggs, fish, nuts, and lean meats.

Eating healthfully means getting the right balance of nutrients. As your teen grows, he or she will require more calories and an increase of key nutrients including protein, calcium, and iron. How much a teen should eat depends on their individual needs. This included;

Calories_ boys require an average of 2,800 calories a day, while girls require an average of 2,200 calories a day. Calorie needs for teens by age, sex and activity level.

Protein_ to build muscles and organs. Boys required an average 40-60 gm of protein per day, and girls require an average 40-55 gm of protein per day. Protein also needs for teen by age, sex and activity.

Daily calcium_ 800mg per day.

Iron Intake_ Boys double their lean body mass between the ages of 10 and 17, needing iron to support their growth. Girls need iron for growth too, and to replace blood they lose through menstruation. Good sources of iron include lean beef, iron-fortified cereals and breads, dried beans and peas, or spinach. Boys require an average of 21-32 mg/day, while girls require an average of 27-30 mg/day.

Fats_ Teens should limit their fat intake to 15 to 20 percent of their total calories every day and they should choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats whenever possible. Healthier, unsaturated fats include olive, canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils. [5]

Changing Healthy Habits [7][8][9]

  • Teenagers are often very busy with school, work, and sports schedules. Help your teenager plan his day if he will not be home for meals. Send healthy snacks or packed lunches with him. This will help him avoid filling up on “junk” food or high fat foods.
  • Your teenager still learns from your healthy eating habits. Teach by example and praise his good food choices whenever you can. Try not to be critical of his appearance at this time of life. Teenagers can easily become too worried about their body image. If they are eating too much or too little, it can affect their growth.
  • Give your teenager at least one serving per day of a high vitamin C food. Examples are citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, potatoes, and green peppers. Also needs one serving per day of a high vitamin A food. This includes spinach, winter squash, carrots, or sweet potatoes.
  • Choose lean meats, fish, and poultry foods for your teenager. Also, give your teenager milk and low fat dairy foods.
  • Avoid fried foods and high fat desserts except on special occasions. This will lower his risk for heart disease when he is older.
  • Arrange for teens to find out about nutrition for themselves by providing teen-oriented magazines or books with food articles and by encouraging them and supporting their interest in health, cooking, or nutrition.
  • Take their suggestions, when possible, regarding foods to prepare at home.
  • Experiment with foods outside your own culture.
  • If there are foods that you do not want your teens to eat, avoid bringing them into the home.
  • Develop a good balance between school, work, and social life.
  • Pay attention to teenager’s moods and feelings. 
  • Exercise regularly _ Teens should be physically active at least 60 minutes of every day.
  • Get enough sleep_ most teens need between 9 and 9 ½ hours of sleep every night. Many average only 7 hours. Sleep has a strong effect on your ability to concentrate and do well at school.
  • Keep up with vaccinations.
  • Control your food portions-A portion is how much food or beverage you choose to consume at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package, at school or a friend’s, or at home. Many people consume larger portions than they need, especially when away from home. Ready-to-eat meals from a restaurant, grocery store, or at school may give you larger portions than your body needs to stay charged up.

Eating healthy food is important at any age, but it’s especially important for teenagers.

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