The special nutritional needs of teenagers
17-04-2014
Teenage years of your child are crucial. This is growth spurt time: kids gain about 20% of adult height and 50% of adult weight during adolescence. Because growth and change is so rapid during this period, the requirements for all nutrients increase. This is especially true of calcium and iron.

Eating habits, however, are pretty well set by now, and if your child's choices are less than ideal, it can be a challenging time for a course correction. The best way to make teen dietary changes is to present information about short-term consequences of a poor diet: appearance, athletic ability, energy, and enjoyment of life. These are more important to most teens than long-term health.

Special nutritional needs for teens

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 anaemia, 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.
Ages
2 to 3
Calories
1,000-1,400, depending on growth and activity level
Protein
2-4 ounces
Fruits
1-1.5 cups
Vegetables
1-1.5 cups
Grains
3-5 ounces
Dairy
2-2.5 cups
Ages
4 to 8
Calories
1,200-2,000, depending on growth and activity level
Protein
3-5.5 ounces
Fruits
1-2 cups
Vegetables
1.5-2.5 cups
Grains
4-6 ounces
Dairy
2.5-3 cups
Ages
4 to 8
Calories
1,200-1,800, depending on growth and activity level
Protein
3-5 ounces
Fruits
1-1.5 cups
Vegetables
1.5-2.5 cups
Grains
4-6 ounces
Dairy
2.5-3 cups
Ages
9 to 13
Calories
1,600-2,600, depending on growth and activity level
Protein
5-6.5 ounces
Fruits
1.5-2 cups
Vegetables
2-3.5 cups
Grains
5-9 ounces
Dairy
3 cups
Ages
9 to 13
Calories
1,400-2,200, depending on growth and activity level
Protein
4-6 ounces
Fruits
1.5-2 cups
Vegetables
1.5-3 cups
Grains
5-7 ounces
Dairy
2.5-3 cups
Ages
14 to 18
Calories
2,000-3,200, depending on growth and activity level
Protein
5.5-7 ounces
Fruits
2-2.5 cups
Vegetables
2.5-4 cups
Grains
6-10 ounces
Dairy
3 cups
Ages
14 to 18
Calories
1,800-2,400, depending on growth and activity level
Protein
5-6.5 ounces
Fruits
1.5-2 cups
Vegetables
2.5-3 cups
Grains
6-8 ounces
Dairy
3 cups