Teenagers typically eat what tastes good or what’s within reach. Proper nutrition during the teen years is essential because their bodies are still growing and developing. A nutritious diet lays a strong foundation for a healthy future.
A Teenager’s Nutritional Needs
A surge in appetite around the age of 10 for girls and boys foreshadows the growth of puberty. Your kid’s body demands more calories during early adolescence than any other time of life.
Boys require an average of 2,800 calories per day and girls require an average of 2,200 calories per day.
Your kids need protein, carbohydrates, and fats as their body’s energy sources.
Proteins. Teens need proteins for many reasons including building and repairing muscles, fighting off infections, promoting hair and skin health and carrying oxygen in the blood. Proteins are also essential to help create enzymes, hormones, and vitamins.
According to US Department of Agriculture males and females, ages 13 to 18 years old must get five to six ounces of protein per day.
- Roughly 46 grams of teen girls and
- 52 grams per day for teen boys
Carbohydrates. The carbohydrates found in starches and sugars get converted into the body’s primary fuel-the glucose. It’s essential that you give your teens complex carbohydrate foods, and reduce simple carbs.
Complex carbs provide sustained energy. The starches also deliver fiber and even some nutrients. Experts recommend 50%-60% of a teenager’s caloric intake must be from complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbs, on the other hand, seduce your kids with their sweet taste andprovide abrief burst of energy. They have little to offer nutritionally. So you must minimize them in their diet.
Fat. The fat supplies your kids with energy and helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A,D, E, and K. Fats should make up no more than 30 percent of your child’s diet.
The varying types of dietary fat are
- Monounsaturated fat. It is the healthiest kind
- Polyunsaturated fat. Found in safflower oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil and cottonseed oil.
- Saturated fat. It is the most cholesterol-laden of the three.
Vitamins and Minerals. Vitamins and minerals are essential for your teenage kids because they support healthy growth and development, boost the immune system, and optimize the functions of the cells and organs.
Vitamins and minerals your children may need include:
- Vitamins B1, B2 and B3 enhance wellness and mood
- Vitamin B12 and folic acid essential for tissue development
- Vitamins C, A and E for newly developed cells
- Vitamins D and B6 for bone and muscle growth
- Magnesium, calcium, and zinc to aid development of healthy bones
Superfoods For Your Teens
One-quarter cup of walnuts provides more than 100 percent of the daily RDA of plant-based omega 3 fats along with high amounts of manganese, copper, biotin, and molybdenum- all essential nutrients during the growing years.
Walnuts contain the aminoacid L-arginine that offers immense vascular benefits for the developing heart. They containsome neuroprotective compounds including folate, vitamin E, omega 3 fats and melatonin and antioxidants.
Research studies show that walnut consumption may increase inferential reasoning among adolescents. Walnuts are the only good nut source of alpha-linolenic acid which increases blood flow and improves oxygen delivery to the brain.
Nuts help in weight control promotes reproductive health and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
How to enjoy: Mix walnuts into plain yogurt and top it with maple syrup. Add walnuts to salads or healthy sautéed veggies.
The orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are nature’s unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene. They are rich in vitamin C which plays a significant role in bone and tooth formation, digestion and blood cell formation.
Sweet potatoes are rich sources of vitamin D which helps to build healthy bones during the adolescent years. Vitamin D is essential for the healthy functioning of the immune system. It boosts the energy levels of your teen kids and optimizes the function of nerves, skin, and teeth. It supports the function of thyroid gland.
Sweet potatoes contain iron and play a significant role in red and white blood cell formation, proper functioning of immune system and resistance to stress. The teen years bring about a lot of changes to young girls such as mensuration. And iron plays a significant role in preventing anemia.
How to enjoy: Puree cooked sweet potatoes with bananas, cinnamon and maple sugar and top it with some walnuts. Steam cubed sweet potatoes, broccoli, and tofu. Throw in some raisins and serve with cold or hot curried vinaigrette dressing.
These little mini trees are one of the healthiest vegetables in the world. They are rich in potassium which aids in building muscle and promotes heart health. The presence of sufficient amount of vitamin A boosts the eye health of your growing kids. Vitamin A also enhances immunity. Vitamin C helps in skin formation and wound healing.
Broccoli contains vitamin K essential for many proteins involved in blood clotting. Folate present in this cruciferous vegetable is necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells in the body.
How to enjoy: Toss pasta with steamed broccoli florets, pine nuts, and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Whole grains are essential sources of fiber, B vitamins Riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, and folate. They contain minerals such as iron, magnesium, and selenium.
The dietary fiber present in them helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. Consuming whole grains reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and prevents constipation.
High fiber foods provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories and keep your teens in the regular weight range. The phytochemicals present in whole grains maintain the optimal health of your kids.
How to enjoy: You can serve whole wheat bagel or toast at breakfast, a whole wheat bread sandwich for lunch or whole wheat pasta for dinner.
Cheese is an excellent source of protein, an essential nutrient during the growing years. Alpha-casein is a unique family of proteins that help to lower blood pressure and contributes to absorbing essential minerals in the digestive tract.
Cheese is a concentrated source of minerals and vitamins. It is rich in calcium, vitamin B12, sodium, phosphorous, riboflavin, zinc, selenium, vitamin A and vitamin K2.
Regular cheese consumption improves the heart health and bone health. Protein-packed cheese is a smart way of building muscles, which are essential during the growing years. Eating cheese keeps your kid’s teeth healthier-thanks with the calcium and phosphorous.
How to enjoy: Stuff cheese inside meatballs or conceal it among layers of girdled ham, apples and French toast. Just hide it in a loaf of bread and enjoy.
Probiotic yogurt is good for your teens. According to a study published in Nutrition Research, regular intake of yogurt links up with better overall diet quality, healthier blood pressure, metabolic profiles and triglyceride levels.
Yogurt is an excellent source of potassium,calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamins B12 and B2.
- Yogurt supports healthy digestion
- Lowers type 2 diabetes risk
- Increases bone density
- Reduces high blood pressure and bad cholesterol
- Regulates mood
- Boosts the immune system of your kids
How to enjoy: Layer plain yogurt with frozen or fresh fruit and sprinkle a spoon of crunchy high fiber cereal. Sweeten yogurt at home with your favorite flavors and nutty toppings.
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries contain the best bioactive compounds such as anthocyanins, flavanols, ellagic acid, and resveratrol. These antioxidants are essential for the rapid growth that takes place during puberty.
Berries are potentially therapeutic for the skin when your teens are more concerned about their physical appearance. Berries fight skin damage from free radicals and reduce wrinkles.
They protect against cancer and significantly improve endothelial function. Endothelial cells which line the blood vessels aids in controlling blood pressure and prevents blood from clotting.
Acai berries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries are highly beneficial for your adolescent girls. These berries improve their heart health because they are the rich sources of polyphenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins.
How to enjoy:
- Top the berries over peanut butter sandwich.
- To cool down a drink, add berry
- Make berry bites with your favorite soft cheese
- Blend frozen berries with orange juice for a perfect summer beverage.
When its wild caught and not farmed, salmon is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Not only does salmon possess omega 3 but it also contains
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B5
Salmon has a day’s worth of vitamin D in just one serving and ensures the overall wellness of your teens. Omega 3 foods help boost memory and brain function, vital for the growing kids.
Research studies show feeding salmon to preschool children reduces ADHD symptoms and increases academic performance.
Eating fish helps cure dry eye syndrome and age-related macular degeneration symptoms. Regular consumption of salmon reduces systemic inflammation and the risk of developing hypertension, atherosclerosis, and stroke.
Including wild-caught salmon in your child’s diet help them to develop a soft and supple skin. The omega 3 fatty acids present in salmon contribute to fighting cancer.
How to enjoy: You can make citrus baked salmon, serve your kids potato salmon patties or try a tasty dish of salmon flavored with garlic.
Free range eggs are more nutritious and contain less cholesterol and saturated fat.Eggs are a significant source of high-quality protein and are essential during the adolescent years. They lower the risk of heart disease and improve cardiovascular function.
Research studies say that higher egg consumption decreases the potential for metabolic syndrome and has a significant positive influence on blood glucose and triglyceride levels.
Eggs contain naturally occurring carotenoids .So give your teens lots of leafy greens along with eggs for enhanced carotenoid absorption.
Eggs improve eye health, fights weight loss, maintains liver function and brain health and keeps skin healthy.
How to enjoy: Enjoy eggs with sunny side up or scrambled. Fold mushrooms and diced bell peppers into an omelet for a nutritious and veggie-packed dish.
Avocados are excellent sources of vitamins C,E, K and B6 as well as niacin, riboflavin, folate, potassium, magnesium and pantothenic acid. Avocados contain healthy beneficial fats that keep your teens full and satiated.
They possess a natural plant sterol called beta-sitosterol. Regular consumption of this sterol helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Avocados are great for eye health because of the presence of lutein and zeaxanthin. They provide maximum antioxidant protection to minimize damage,including those from ultraviolet light.
Avocados prevent osteoporosis because they are rich in vitamin K. Being a rich source of folate they prevent cancer and undesirable gene mutations in DNA and RNA cell division. Folate is essential for teen girls who may have started their mensuration.
Avocados lower risk of depression improves digestion, promotes natural detoxification and protects against chronic diseases.
How to enjoy: Use chopped avocados as a garnish for black bean soup.Spread ripe avocados on bread as a healthy replacement for mayonnaise.
Since the brain is mostly made of water, proper hydration boosts your teen’s concentration powers.
- Water promotes weight loss
- Flushes out toxins
- Enhances the immune system
- Improves skin complexion
- Maintains regularity and prevents constipation
- Improve joint function and flexibility of muscles.
How to enjoy: To hydrate your growing kids try strawberry-cucumber water, tomato-basil water, and Pineapple-mint ginger water.
Called as the King of the fruits mangoes contain vitamins C, A, B6 and K and also folate and potassium. They contribute copper, calcium, and iron to your kid’s diet, as well as antioxidants such as zeaxanthin and beta-carotene.
Mangoes reduce obesity, prevents heart disease and diabetes. It promotes healthy complexion and hair growth. It boosts energy levels and reduces overall weight.
Zeaxanthin present in mangoes filters out harmful blue light and protects the eye health. Mangoes prevent asthma and cancer. They promote digestion and increases calcium absorption essential for optimal bone growth during the adolescent years.
How to enjoy: Play with your creativity and make mango smoothie, frozen mango cubes, pancakes and mango salsa.
Encourage your teens to include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits in their diet. Cut back on fats, reduce the number of sweets and unhealthy snacks they eat. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit their fast food intake. Tackle their hunger with fiber and protein.
Chart out a strict sleeping schedule so they get the adequate shut-eye time. Inspire your kids to get moving and cut down the time of sitting around. Be a shining example to them by practicing a healthy lifestyle.