Diet and nutrition for teenagers

The period from 12 to 21 years is the period of rapid growth both physically and mentally . These changes allows teenagers to become more mature and independent, and it directly effect their dietary needs and eating patterns. A healthy balanced diet is essential for the body in order to ensure proper growth and development.

Nutrient requirements

The nutrient and caloric requirements of teenagers varies according to their gender, height, weight and physical activity levels.


The caloric requirements of teenagers vary according to the growth rate, body composition and physical activities. Teenager girls mostly require between 1600 to 2400 calories per day and boys need between 1800 to 3200 calories. However if the teenager is overweight or obese it means that caloric intake is more than the actual need. Excessive energy intake among this age group is mainly because of the intake of large amounts of solid fats and sugars. Studies reveal that approximately 34 % of the total calories comes from added sugars and solid fats. For example sweetened beverages, desserts, processes meats, pizzas and cheeses. Proper selection of food is important to avoid excessive energy intake from added sugars and high fat-foods.

Carbohydrates and fiber

The average carbohydrates requirement of teenagers are estimated to be 130 grams/ day that makes up about 45 – 65% of the total calories. One should consume about 5-8 oz of carbohydrates from grains at-least half of which should be wholegrains such as whole grain cereals, oatmeal , brown rice etc. The rest of carbohydrates should be composed of five servings of fruits and vegetables.


Protein is needed by the body for growth and repair of tissues. It is found in meat and meat products, lentils , beans and nuts. The total protein requirement for teenagers is 10-20% of the daily caloric intake. Insufficient intake of protein due to any reason can result in reduction in growth rate, and a decrease in lean body mass. However excessive protein intake can interfere with calcium metabolism and increase fluid needs.


Total fat intake of teenagers is mostly high due to the excessive intake of fast foods, pizza, cheese and processed meats. However it is recommended that the intake of fat should not exceed 30 percent of overall caloric intake . The intake of saturated fats should be limited to 7 percent of total calories. Saturated fats are found in animal fats that solidify at room temperatures.

Mineralsand vitamins

Micronutrients requirement of teenagers are high to support growth and development. Adolescent males require more vitamins and minerals with the exception of iron as compared to girls. Young adults are more susceptible to vitamin and mineral deficiency due to unhealthy eating habits.

The consumption of wide variety of foods is preferred for an adequate nutrient intake.


  • Dietary patterns

Food habits and diet patterns are the most common problems that are frequently seen in teens than the other age group, it includes excessive snacking, irregular meal times , meal skipping and excessive use of soft drinks and fast foods. In addition , excessive dieting by young adults in order to look good and attractive also contributes to Malnutrition and vitamins and mineral deficiencies.

  • Overweight and obesity

Lack of exercise and high intake of large amount of fats and sugars can lead to obesity in teenagers. Obesity have short and long term consequences in teenagers. Teenagers who are overweight are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases.

  • Eating disorders

Eating disorders such as anorexia, binge eating, use of laxatives or diuretics have been commonly observed in teenagers. These disorders if not treated on time can result in malnutrition and excessive or lack of weight gain.

  • Acne

The appearance of acne is at peak during adolescence. Quality of diet may influence or aggravate acne development. Young adults who consume more sugars and high fatty and fried foods are more at risk of developing acne than those who eat foods with more fruits and vegetables and less fats.

General eating guidelines for teenagers

  • Add 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Fruits and vegetables can be cooked , baked, dry or fresh.
  • Add up-to 6-11 serving of grains, preferably whole grains such as whole grain bread, chapatti, oatmeals, to meet caloric needs.
  • 2 serving from protein sources such as beef , mutton poultry or pulses and nuts is essential for proper growth and repair of body tissues.
  • Fats and high sweet foods should be consumed occasionally as a treat.
  • Never skip breakfast. Teenagers who eat breakfast as a routine are likely to have weight problems and eat fewer calories throughout a day.

Examples of healthy and delicious snacks

  • Non fat flavoured yogurt.
  • A handful of nuts
  • Air popped pop corns
  • Wholewheat biscuits
  • Oatmeal
  • Glass of skimmed milk
  • Fresh fruits such as apple , banana or fruit salad
  • Low fat tortillas
  • Salad with low fat dressing

  • by,

Aliya Waqas

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