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Body and Food

Teenage Nutrition

Adolescence and teenage body: 

Adolescence is a period of rapid physical, emotional, intellectual, and social maturation.  In adolescence, food is the fuel for lots of growing and developing. This is also the time when your child forms lifelong food habits. You can encourage your child to have a healthy attitude to food during their teenage years. To support this growth, teenagers need extra calories, calcium, and iron, and sufficient protein. Teenage eating habits are influenced less by parents and family, and more by peers, media messages, and body image issues. Because growth and change is so rapid during this period, the requirements for all nutrients increases.

Following a period of slow growth during late childhood, the teenage growth rate is as rapid as that of early childhood. By the end of adolescence, teens attain most of their adult height and weight. Although adolescence spans a period of five to seven years, teens do most of their growing during an 18-24 month period called the “growth spurt.” To support this rapid growth, teenagers need to consume lots of calories and other nutrients. During adolescence, teens go through puberty, a process that involves total body maturation and the development of adult sexual function. The body composition of both females and males changes during adolescence. Before puberty, females have approximately 19% body fat, which increases to about 22% after puberty. Males maintain body fat percentage of approximately 15%, but during adolescence, males gain two times more muscle mass than females.

Nutrient requirements of  teenagers are below:


Teenagers need lots of calories to support rapid growth. Girls need approximately 2200 calories, while boys need 2500-2900 calories.


Protein is also necessary for physical growth, and should account for 15-20% of total calories. In Indian children protein deficiency is a problem faced not just by malnourished children but also healthy-looking adults, it impairs brain functioning. Studies have shown how protein deficiency reduces the ability of brain cells to process information, leading to learning disabilities, difficulty in memorizing and delayed response.


Many teens consume too much fat. Like adults, the diets of teenagers should contain no more than 30% of calories as total fat and 10% of calories as saturated fat. Teens should limit high-fat junk foods, and include foods containing essential fatty acids including walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and cold water fish.


Nearly half of all skeletal growth occurs during adolescence. As a result, large amounts of calcium are needed during the teenage years. Bone growth and strength depends on the amount of calcium intake in everyday food. To ensure proper absorption and utilization of the calcium, vitamin D is also needed.


Teenage males and females have increased requirements for iron. For boys, the increase in muscle mass that occurs during adolescence is accompanied by greater blood volume. In females, iron is lost during the monthly cycle.


Zinc is essential for growth which plays major role in development as well as activities.

B vitamins

Large amounts of the B vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin are needed to meet the energy requirements of teens. Muscle development and growth depends on vitamin B12.

Carbohydrate is the body’s primary source of dietary energy. Carbohydrate-rich foods, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are also the main source of dietary fiber. Dietary recommendations suggest that 50% or more of total daily calories should come from carbohydrate, with no more than 10-25% of calories derived from sweeteners, such as sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. Adolescents consume approximately 53% of their calories as carbohydrate. Foods that contribute the most carbohydrate to the diets of adolescents include (in descending order) yeast bread, soft drinks, milk, ready-to-eat cereal, and foods such as cakes, cookies, quick breads, donuts, sugars, syrups, and jams. Sweeteners and added sugars provide approximately 20% of total calories to the diets of adolescents. Mean intake of added sugars ranges from 23 teaspoons/day (nearly 1/2 cup) for females ages 9-18 to 36 teaspoons/day (3/4 cup) for males ages 14 to 18. Soft drinks are a major source of added sweeteners in the diets of adolescents, accounting for over 12% of all carbohydrate consumed. Soft drink consumption has steadily increased over the years among adolescents; among teenage boys it is nearly tripled.

How much amount of nutrients in teen diet?

Below are various nutrient tables that can be referred to check the nutrient quantity needed in everyday diet.

 Various vitamins and amino acids 

Nutrient M 9-13 F 9-13 M 14-18 F 14-18
Vitamin A (mcg RE) 600 600 900 700
Vitamin D (mcg) 5 5 5 5
Vitamin E (mg alpha-TE) 11 11 15 15
Vitamin K (mcg) 60 60 75 75
Thiamin (mg) 900 mcg 900 mcg 1.2 1.0
Riboflavin (mg) 900 mcg 900 mcg 1.3 1
Niacin (mg NE) 12 12 16 14
Pantothenic Acid (mg) 4 4 5 5
Vitamin B6 (mg) 1 1 1.3 1.2
Folate (mcg) 300 300 400 400
Vitamin B12 (mcg) 1.8 1.8 2.4 2.4
Choline (mg) 375 375 550 400
Biotin (mcg) 20 20 25 25
Vitamin C (mg) 45 45 75 65
Calcium (mg) 1300 1300 1300 1300
Phosphorus (mg) 1250 1250 1250 1250
Magnesium (mg) 240 240 410 360
Iron (mg) 8 8 11 15
Zinc (mg) 8 8 11 9
Iodine (mcg) 120 120 150 150
Selenium (mcg) 40 40 55 55
Copper (mcg) 700 700 890 890
Manganese (mg) 1.9 1.6 2.2 1.6
Chromium (mcg) 25 21 35 24


Healthy Diet Basics

There are healthy eating tips that can help children to develop food habits that promote good health. Learning to eat well now can help lower the risk of developing disease in the future. Nutrient needs are best met by choosing a variety of different foods. Vitamin and mineral supplements cannot replace a healthy diet and can be harmful if used inappropriately. Talk to doctor before taking any nutritional supplements. Remember the recommended servings listed below probably will not provide all of your energy (calorie) needs, but you can afford to add a few higher fat foods or some sweet treats if most of your selections come from these nutrient-dense food groups.

Food Group Servings per day What a serving equals
Calcium-Rich Foods 3-4
  • 1 cup of low-fat milk, milk pudding or yoghurt
  • 1.5 oz. cheese
  • 1 cup of calcium fortified soy beverage
Protein Foods 2-3
  • 3 oz. fish or chicken
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 oz. tofu
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans (soya, chickpeas, lentils, etc.)
Rice and
  • 1/2 bowl rice
  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1 cup pasta or noodles
  • 2 small chapati
  • 1 bread bun, pav or bagel
  • 3/4 cup cereal
  • 4 biscuits

*Choose whole grain sources to enrich your fiber intake.

Vegetables 2-3
  • 1/2 cup cooked leafy vegetables
  • 1 cup cooked non-leafy vegetables
  • 1 raw carrot
  • 1½ cup salad greens
  • ½ cup vegetable juice
Fruit 2-3
  • 1 slice papaya, melon, pineapple, watermelon, etc.
  • 1 cup cut-up fruit
  • ½ cup 100% fruit juice
  • ½ cup canned fruit (juice-packed)

*Pick citrus fruits to boost vitamin C intake. Eat a variety of fruits to boost the cancer-fighting agents.


For teenage kids in India below table gives an overall daily diet idea for each meal they consume  (Source:


Option Breakfast Mid Morning Lunch Evening Dinner

Mid Morning
Mid Morning



  • Mooli Parathas
  • Yogurt (fat free)
Dry fruits
  • Panchranga pulao
  • Paneer shashlik
  • Mint raitha
  • Apple
Cocktail khakra
  • Whole Wheat Rotis
  • Dum Arbi
  • Channa Masala
  • Carrot Salad
  • Buttermilk
  • Toovar methi na dhokla
  • Mint chutney
  • Dates chutney
Trail mix
  • Paushtik roti
  • Khumb kali mirch
  • Beans salad
  • Yogurt (fat free)
  • Orange
Mango lassi
  • Mushroom Pulao
  • Pindi channa
  • Mixed veg raita
  • Grapes
  • Duet Uttapa
  • Veg Sagu
Fig bars
  • Veg burger (whole wheat buns)
  • Fruit and lettuce salad
  • Yogurt (Fat Free)
Fruit kebabs
  • Brown Rice
  • Raw Banana Curry
  • Sambar (Pigeon Pea Dish)
  • Cucumber Salad
  • Buttermilk
  • Nachini(Ragi) Pancakes
  • Coriander Chutney
Milk (1% Fat)
  • Veg Fried Rice
  • Orange Baked Chicken
  • Apple and Celery Salad
Spicy Sprouts Sandwich
  • Whole Wheat Tortillas
  • Mexican Beans
  • Tomato Salsa
  • Yogurt (Fat Free)
  • Watermelon
  • Jam and Fruit Pancake
  • Yogurt
Mixed nuts
  • Spinach Mushroom Lasagna
  • Grilled Chicken
  • Waldorf Salad
  • 100% Orange Juice
Apple Shake
  • Chicken and Vegetable Soup
  • Wheat Crackers
  • Hawaiian Salad
  • Watermelon


Generally calories, proteins, calcium and iron intake are very essential for teenage growing kids. The requirement of these 4 nutrients are represented in the below table

Calories Due to all the growth and activity, adolescent boys need 2,500-2,800 per day, while girls need around 2,200 per day. It’s best to get these calories from lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and fruits and veggies.
Protein In order for the body to grow and maintain muscle, teens need 45-60 grams per day. Most teenagers easily meet this need from eating meat, fish, and dairy, but vegetarians may need to increase their protein intake from non-animal sources like soy foods, beans, and nuts.
Calcium Many teens do not get sufficient amounts of calcium, leading to weak bones and osteoporosis later in life. Encourage teens to cut back on soda and other overly-sugary foods, which suck calcium from bones. The 1,200 mg of calcium needed per day should come from dairy, calcium-fortified juice and cereal, and other calcium-rich foods such as sesame seeds and leafy greens like spinach.
Iron Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue, and weakness. Boys need 12 mg each day, and teen girls, who often lose iron during menstruation, need 15 mg. Iron-rich foods include red meat, chicken, beans, nuts, enriched whole grains, and leafy greens like spinach and kale.
Carbohydrates Carbohydrate is the body’s primary source of dietary energy. Carbohydrate-rich foods, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are also the main source of dietary fiber. Dietary recommendations suggest that 50% or more of total daily calories should come from carbohydrate, with no more than 10-25% of calories derived from sweeteners, such as sucrose and high fructose and corn syrup


Eating disorders in teenagers:

Adolescent and teenage girls are at particularly high risk for developing eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia. The desire for a ‘perfect’ slim body can be so strong that some girls will make themselves sick trying to achieve it. Some young women have an inappropriate body image, believing they are ‘fat’ even though their weight is in the normal range or below normal range.

Eating disorders are serious; health consequences can be severe, even life threatening. If you think you or one of your friends might have an eating disorder, talk to an adult about it right away; you may save a life. If you are a parent, you should be concerned if your child shows any of the following behaviors:

  • Refuses to eat or eats only small portions of food
  • Loses a lot of weight in a short time or shows great fluctuations in weight
  • Displays an extreme fear of being fat
  • Exercises excessively
  • Thinks she is fat even though she is not
  • Appears depressed, moody, insecure and/or hyperactive

Children weight problem and self esteem:

Children who are substantially overweight or obese are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and poor self-esteem, as well as long-term health problems in adulthood. While childhood obesity doesn’t always lead to obesity in adulthood, it does raise the risks dramatically. The majority of children who are overweight during preschool or elementary school are still overweight as they enter their teens. Most kids do not outgrow the problem.

Addressing weight problems in children requires a coordinated plan of physical activity and healthy nutrition. Unless directed by doctor, though, the treatment for childhood obesity is not weight loss. The goal should be to slow or halt weight gain, thereby allowing your child to grow into his or her ideal weight.

Add physical activity to your child’s day, just as you would add fruit or veggies. To encourage physical activity, play with your kids – throw around a football; go cycling, skating, or swimming; take family walks and hikes; and help your kids find activities they enjoy by showing them different possibilities. The benefits of lifelong exercise are abundant and regular exercise can even help motivate your kids to make healthy food choices.

Below are some basic tips that can help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight :

1) Exercise: Lack of exercise is a major contributor to obesity in kids and adults. Most health organizations recommend that all kids and teens be physically active at least 60 minutes every day. So run, walk, play, swim or dance. Find a few activities that you enjoy and get your body moving; invite a friend to join you riding bikes, hiking or walking, or running. You will feel and think better if you get your body moving each day. Exercise is good for your muscle and bone development and it will help you maintain a healthy heart.

2) Turn off the Television: Unfortunately, many teens are planted in front of the TV screen five or more hours per day. Many studies have shown a relationship between hours spent in front of the television and body weight .A good rule is to limit TV time to weekends only; limiting TV to one hour per day is another good option. In technical era kids are spending most of their time in computer. However many teens spend way too much time sitting in same place without moving. Balance out time spent in sedentary activities with more active ones.

3) Drink Smart  : If one constantly quench thirst with sugar-laden soft drinks, fruit punch or sweetened drinks, you will end up consuming a lot of extra calories. Diet drinks are less in calories but may also contain caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic, it causes you to lose water. Quench your thirst with water and limit your soda consumption, but don’t skimp on milk. Remember you have only a limited time to make those calcium deposits to your bones. An 8 oz glass of skim milk contains only about 90 calories while providing about 300 mg of bone-building calcium.

4) Make Choices – Moderation is the key for all activities including diet. Don’t over eat and go for  ‘super-sized’ foods. Enjoy sharing your food with friends and siblings. There are not any ‘bad’ foods, just go easy on the portion sizes for foods high in fat or sugar. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, less sugar, fat and think twice before eating any fast food.

How to tell teenagers:

Helping your teen to make healthy choices: Making your child understand their body, environment and diet at their young age always poses a challenge. Take time to talk to your teen about their body and activities they perform.

With so many changes happening to your child’s brain, it’s especially important that your child is protected and nurtured. The incidence of poor mental health increases during the teenage years. It’s thought this could be related to the fact that the developing brain is more vulnerable to stress factors than the adult brain. Teenage stresses can include drugs, alcohol and high-risk behavior, as well as things like starting a new school, peer pressure, or major life events like moving house or the death of a loved one.

The best way to make teen aware of dietary changes is to present information about short and long term consequences of a poor diet: appearance, athletic ability, energy, and enjoyment of life. We can give examples of how nutrients will help them to grow healthier. For example, Calcium will help you grow taller. Iron will help you do better on tests and stay up late, Protein is important for brain function, Vitamin D is important for bone function etc .

For young girls and boys:

Puberty hormones will cause body to develop curves by depositing fat in areas like your breasts, hips and thighs. This can lead some girls to think they are ‘getting fat’. Try and take a realistic look at your body. Look around at other girls and people in your family. Healthy bodies come in a lot of different shapes and much of what your body looks like depends on genetics. Common problem with teenage girls are constant body comparison with their peers.

Few people have the shape of fashion models or celebrities. If you really think you are overweight, discuss your concerns with an adult or your doctor. Never start any weight loss diet without first getting some expert advice. Some studies have shown that girls following restrictive diets actually end up weighing more in the long run.

Physical changes during adolescence

Young girls will start to see early physical changes from about 10 or 11 years, but they might start as young as 8 years or as old as 13 years. Physical changes around puberty include:

  • breast development
  • changes in body shape and height
  • growth of pubic and body hair
  • the start of periods (menstruation).

For boys, physical changes usually start around 11 or 12 years, but they might start as young as 9 years or as old as 14 years. Physical changes include:

  • growth of private organs
  • changes in body shape and height
  • growth of body and facial hair
  • changes to voice.

Supporting your child through physical changes

Nutrition and weight
Your child will gain weight and develop new nutritional needs. Teenagers’ stomachs and intestines increase in size, and they need an increase in energy, proteins and minerals. Foods with plenty of calcium and iron are particularly important at this age to support bone growth and blood circulation.

Sleep and rest 
Sleep patterns change, with many children starting to stay awake later at night and then sleeping until later in the day. Also, the brain re-sets the body clock during puberty. Children going through puberty need more sleep than they did just before puberty started. You’re not alone in feeling like it’s hard to get your child to school on time!

Sweat glands in the armpits and groin area are activated for the first time during puberty, and this can lead to increased body odor. Encourage your child to wash daily and wash clothes regularly. All children need to wash their genital area. For uncircumcised boys, washing under the foreskin is also important. Using an antiperspirant deodorant can also help.

Acne and skin problems 
Glands in the skin on the face, shoulders and back start to become more active during puberty, producing more oil. This can lead to skin conditions such as pimples and acne. If you’re concerned about your child’s skin, first check whether the pimples or acne are worrying your child too. If they are, consider speaking with your doctor.

Teenagers might find their hair gets oilier, and they need to wash it more. This is normal. Your child might like to change to a shampoo for oily hair.

Dental care 
Children will gain their second molars at around 13 years. Third molars – ‘wisdom teeth’ – might appear between 14 and 25 years. These teeth can appear in singles, pairs, as a full set of four wisdom teeth – or not at all. Not everyone has wisdom teeth. Encourage your child to brush twice a day and floss once a day.

Teenagers are adjusting to their changing bodies, which might make them self-conscious or embarrassed at times. They also compare their bodies with friends and siblings. Children whose development seems to be taking a long time compared to friends might seem frustrated or emotional.

You, or another appropriate adult, can help by:

  • providing support, reassurance and matter-of-fact explanations of physical changes
  • reinforcing that physical changes are different for every child
  • avoiding words like ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to development
  • not comparing your child to others.

Here are some more ideas and strategies for helping your child through the changes.

Be a healthy role model 
Use every opportunity to be a healthy role model for your child and your child’s body image and attitude. It can be helpful to reinforce that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Avoid comparing your child’s body to other people’s.

Treat your child in an age-appropriate way
On the outside, your child might have a mature body. Inside, your child might not have developed the self-control and thinking skills of a grown-up. At times, your child might act very grown up and at other times might seem more childlike and dependent on you.

With these sorts of mismatches, it can be hard not to treat your child as an older person. Keep in mind your child’s real age, and ask only for behaviour and a level of responsibility that’s appropriate for this age group.

Encourage healthy eating 
Your child is likely to have an increased appetite and need more food. You can best meet your child’s teenage nutritional needs by:

  • providing healthy foods and drinks at home
  • encouraging healthy choices when you’re out
  • eating healthily yourself.

Encourage a healthy balanced diet – overeating and too many high-sugar and high-fat food and drinks can lead to adolescent overweight or obesityDisordered eating and dieting can also be an issue during this time.

Support your child’s physical activity
Healthy physical activity habits set up in childhood and adolescence are often carried into adulthood. You can keep your child active by encouraging daily movement and involvement in team and individual outdoor and indoor interests. Try to be active yourself – for example, you could try walking rather than driving for short trips.

Encourage healthy sleep routines 
Teenagers need enough sleep and rest. Lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep can have a big impact on thinking skills, concentration and performance at school. You can help by:

  • reinforcing a regular bedtime
  • encouraging ‘winding down’ before bedtime – try no screen time at least an hour before bedtime and avoid high-sugar foods and caffeinated drinks
  • making sure your child has a quiet, comfortable sleeping environment, and encouraging your child to turn off the mobile phone. 

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