New Situations, New Nutritional Needs
Being a teenager is difficult no matter the environment. Bodies are changing, increasingly complex social groups and new stresses at home and school make the years from 12 to 19 one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. How does teenage nutrition fit into all of this?
Teenage Nutrition for Boys and Girls
This is the time in a person’s life where nutritional needs begin to separate between the genders. General ideas of lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low amounts of fats and salts are still pertinent, but having an active teenager can require more than that.
General Nutrition Tips For Girls
Teenage nutrition begins earlier in girls than in boys. You may want to start as young as 10 to shift from childhood nutrition to teenage nutrition. To maintain a healthy diet and weight, stick to a rough count of 2,100 calories. Obviously this changes depending on your child’s exercise level, how much they are growing, etc. But here are some good places to start.
- Start with milk and other calcium sources. Unfortunately, osteoporosis is a common ailment in women, so strong bones is a necessity. Exercise and consuming low-fat milk and cheeses builds strong bones.
- Whole grains and pasta. Many teens are very active and carbohydrates are your friend to keep them energized and healthy.
- Watch what they eat when it comes to snacks. As seen here, many of the snacks that teens eat are loaded with sugar and fats and sodium.
- Read nutrition labels. One of Taher’s corporate dietitians, Melanie Wirth, says that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it’s probably not the best to consume. Look for items fortified with iron as many people can have that lacking in their diet. Here’s an article on how to teach your teen how to read nutrition labels.
- Make their plate colorful! Taher teaches “rainbow classes” to young kids to inspire eating foods of varying colors and it’s just as important here. Another good thing about colorful or well-presented foods is that your teen may post about them. This enhances the experience of the food and in some cases, fights food stigma among teen girls.
General Nutrition Tips For Boys
Teenage nutrition for boys isn’t normally high on the list of things parents need to worry about with teenage boys but to maintain healthy growth, boys should be eating around 2,300 calories from the ages 11 -13 and 3,000 calories between the ages of 14-18.
- Much of what was said about teenage girls applies to boys, just more of it. Reading nutrition labels and general healthy practices are a good start.
- Is he always hungry? Carbs and pasta are your friends. Be sure to stock up on whole grain bread, pasta, and brown rice. This will fill up your teen more than most other foods.
- Drink lots of water. Your child is growing and water is important to everyone, but to them more so. Keep a water bottle handy.
- Keep the general ideas of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats and proteins that are good for anyone, you need more to keep up with the teenage nutritional needs of your child.
Growing Up Healthy
Keep these tips in mind when looking at your child’s school and seeing what they serve in the lunchroom. Taher uses our corporate dietitians to ensure that all of the meals we serve meet the highest standards of nutrition in all the schools we serve. This is important as well as introducing new and different recipes to teens. Taher has the Chef Council that travels all over the world and brings dishes from Singapore, Spain, Italy, and many other places into their school lunchroom.
After seeing some of the new and different food that your kids have in their schools, bring the dishes home and cook with your child! Cooking is a wonderful bonding experience and may lead them to eat healthier. Plus, let’s be honest, you want your teen to know how to cook before they leave for college and/or move out. It’s a great skill and easy to learn a few recipes.