Nutritional Needs in Adolescence

How healthy or disease free your adulthood will be, depends on the foods you consumed during your early childhood and teenage days. Certainly, children go through various stages of growth and development from infant (0 to 1 years old), toddler (1 to 3 years old), early childhood (4 to 8 years old), middle childhood (9 to 11 years old) to adolescence (12 to 18 years old) . That is why at each stage, you will observe various mental and physical developments in your child. How are nutritional needs in adolescence different from earlier years? (Power foods for kids of all ages)

What is Teenage?

Teenage is the time between thirteen to nineteen years of age in a person’s life. And this is the time for some major physical, mental and hormonal changes. Since there are so many changes taking place in the body, it becomes very important for parents to know what are daily nutritional requirements for teenagers. So when kids enter their teens, parents should understand how nutritional needs in adolescence are different from preteen years. (What is Puberty?)

Growth and Development during ADOLESCENT years:

Teenagers undergo major physical development during their puberty phase. These physical changes are regulated by changes in the levels of hormones which are produced by the pituitary gland: luteinizing hormone (responsible for menstrual cycle in girls) and follicle-stimulating hormone (responsible for reproductive system in both girls and boys). As a result, in the early puberty phase, luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone increase, resulting in major physical changes including weight gain, outbursts of acne, height gain and behavioral changes like anxiety, hyper-activity and short-temperedness. (Fruits for teens?)

WHAT ARE THE Nutritional needs IN ADOLESCENCE?

Teenagers tend to make more food choices on their own as they become more independent and are often influenced by their peers. So it becomes parent’s responsibility to provide them with good examples and nutritious foods and minimize the consumption of junk or packaged food. (Kids can deplete their calcium by eating junk food.)

Calorie requirements:

Due to the growth spurt of puberty, there is a surge in appetite around the age of ten in girls and twelve in boys which leads to increase in daily calories requirement during this time. Calories are the measurement used to express the energy delivered by food. The body of an adolescent needs more calories during than at any other time of life. (What is growing leg pain?) On average, boys require 2,800 calories per day while girls require 2,200 calories per day.

Essential Nutrients:

Due to so many changes taking place in the body, there are daily nutrients and habits that kids need to keep themselves happy and healthy. Nutritional needs in adolescence includes all the essential macronutrients and micronutrients in the right quantity. (What is balanced diet?)  

Macronutrients:

Protein: Adolescent needs a balanced meal with adequate amounts of protein during puberty as protein helps in growth and repair of muscles and tissues. It also generates enzymes and hormones. Protein rich diets help them to feel energetic throughout the day. Nuts, seeds, chicken, eggs, fish and cheese are a few high protein foods. (Top nuts and seeds for protein)

Carbohydrates: They are the biggest source of energy for teenagers. Almost 60% of energy (calories) for the day must come from carbohydrate foods. They provide instant energy and keep the kids on their toes. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and sugar are rich in carbohydrates. (Food for immunity?)

Dietary Fat: Fat should make up no more than 30% of the diet. A teenager who indulges in a fat-heavy diet is going to put on weight, even if he or she is active. Dietary fat contains varying proportions of three types:

  • Monounsaturated fat is the healthiest kind of fat and is found in olives, olive oil, peanuts, peanut, peanut butter, cashews, walnuts, walnut oil and canola oil.
  • Polyunsaturated fat is found in corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and sesame-seed oil.
  • Saturated fat is the most cholesterol laden of the three and is found in meat and dairy products like beef, pork, lamb, butter, cheese, cream, egg yolks, coconut oil, and palm oil. (Natural sources of saturated fats?)

Your family’s intake of saturated fat should not more than 10% of your total daily calories. The other 20% of daily calories from dietary fat should come equally from the two unsaturated kinds of fat.

Micronutrients:

Iron: Iron is essential for teens, especially for girls as they lose more of it once menstruation starts. Iron rich foods such as meat, fish, poultry, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds should be  teenagers on a daily basis.(How iron deficiency affects children?)

Calcium and Vitamin D: Adolescent needs calcium to build strong bones which can help them later in life. Deficiency of calcium can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis (a condition in which bones become weak and can easily break). Consumption of vitamin D is equally important as it helps in absorption of calcium. Calcium rich foods include low-fat milk, other dairy foods and dark green vegetables, along with fortified foods like fortified juice and cereal. (Why calcium and vitamin D are important?)

Vitamins: Vitamins are water-soluble or fat-soluble. Leafy vegetables, animal products, nuts & seeds, vegetable oils, dairy foods are rich in fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E and K ). Whereas nuts & seeds, fruits, vegetables, grains, milk and dairy foods are high in water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C, the B vitamins). (What foods have which vitamins?

Minerals: Minerals include calcium, iron, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, chloride and Sulphur are found in nuts, seeds, shellfish, chicken, eggs, beans, cocoa, avocados, berries, yogurt and cheese. (Why calcium?)


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