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Diet in Teenagers

The teenage years are the time when a child’s body goes through numerous changes. This includes bone development, an increase in height, and hormonal changes characterized by the appearance of facial hair in boys and the development of mammary glands in girls. Teenagers may also be more physically active in sports and busy with their school studies. Therefore, their bodies need adequate fuel in the form of calories to drive these changes. 

What Should be Included in a Teen’s Diet?

If you are a parent of a teenager or if you are a teen reading this, it is important to understand the value of healthy eating habits. Your food intake will shape your immunity and determine how your body adapts in the adult years.

Some of the basic elements that should be a part of a teen’s diet include:

  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Dairy products with less fat content
  • Nuts and dry fruits
  • Eggs
  • Lean meats
  • Fish

Things to Keep in Mind When Planning Meals for a Teenager

Food intake for a teenager should always be nutritious. It should be a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium.  

Overeating and under eating should be avoided as this affects their metabolism and may lead to unwanted changes in a teen’s body.

How do you Determine the Calorie Intake for a Teenager?

The calorie intake of a teen depends upon certain factors like:

  • The intensity of physical activities: Teenagers involved in high-intensity workouts and various other physical activities do require more calories.
  • Height and body weight: Usually teens with a tall height and healthy weight may require more calories than teens with a shorter height and lower body weight. This is simply to meet the requirements of the developing body. However, this may differ among teens.

Composition of a Teenager’s Diet

This list summarises the key food items that should be part of a teen’s meals:

Breakfast: This may include serving cut fruits, oatmeal, milk, cornflakes, muesli, brown bread and butter/peanut butter, omelet or boiled eggs. A fat-free or low-fat cheese toast could also be served to meet the calcium requirements.

Lunch: This may include vegetable curry, lentils, brown rice or wheat, a slice of lean meat, yogurt/curd, and salad.

Dinner: This may include a light soup, boiled veggies, bowl of rice with a fish or lean meat dish.

Choice of veggies: Spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green peas, dried beans, beetroot, carrot, and potato.

Which Fats can be included in a Teenager’s Diet?

Saturated fats have a harmful impact on the teen’s health. Therefore, food items with higher levels of saturated fats should be avoided. Common foods to avoid include poultry skin, lamb, beef, pork, high-fat dairy products, palm oil, and cocoa butter.

A teenage diet should include 25 to 35 % fats in their daily calorific intake. Foods rich in unsaturated fats should be consumed as they are good for their overall health, especially the heart. Healthier, unsaturated fats include canola, olive, sunflower, and soybean oils; fish like salmon and tuna; and seeds and nuts.

What Food Should a Teenager Avoid?

It is advisable to reduce or limit consumption of carbonated beverages; junk foods like pasta, burgers, and pizza made from refined flour; cakes, pastries, and sugary foods, canned and processed foods, food cooked in low-quality oil and street food.

Some Good Eating Habits for Teenagers

In addition to eating a healthy meal, teenagers should follow these habits which will improve their overall fitness:

  • Increase water intake as it flushes out toxins and keeps skin glowing.
  • Regulate the portion size.
  • Chew food properly.
  • Do not skip breakfast as this improves metabolism, prevents obesity and keeps you energetic throughout the day.
  • Avoid eating out and increase the intake of home-cooked foods due to their hygiene value.
  • Refrain from using supplements or diet pills.