Healthy Diet for Adolescents (Ages 12-18)
A Guide for Parents and Caregivers
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
The teen years are a time to grow and change. The foods that teens eat need to support this process. Here are some ways to help your teen eat healthier.
Key Parts of Healthy Eating
Get Enough Calories
Teens need a lot of calories to support their growth and to fuel their bodies. The amount that your teen needs depends on age, sex, and the calories that he or she burns through activity. Most teen girls need about 2,200 calories each day. Teen boys need 2,500 to 3,000 calories each day.
It is easy to eat too many calories by making poor food choices. This can lead to being overweight or obese. Make sure your teen gets the amount of calories they need by:
Your teen needs:
Vitamins and Minerals
Many teens, mainly girls, do not get enough vitamins and minerals. Ask the doctor if your teen should take vitamins.
Here are some vitamins and minerals that teens often do not get enough of:
Foods with fiber may put off heart disease and some kinds of cancer. It can also ease constipation and help your teen feel full after eating. Most teens do not eat enough. Teach your teen to choose whole grains and offer them plenty of fruits and veggies.
This eating plan is based on the United States Department of Agriculture's Choose My Plate website. The daily amount varies based on age, weight, sex, and activity. Use these amounts as a start. Go to their website to learn more.
*The daily amounts are for children 12 to 18 who are of average weight and height for their age and do 30 to 60 minutes of activity each day.
Making Mealtime Healthy
There are ways you can help your teen make meals healthier. Here are some tips:
Most teens should also eat 2 to 3 snacks a day. Some healthy choices are fresh fruit and veggies, yogurt, granola bars, cheese, pretzels, and popcorn.
Tips to Help Your Teen
Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Dietitians of Canada
Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/. Accessed February 12, 2020.
Parent teaching: Teaching parents about nutrition of healthy teenagers (ages 12 through 18 years). EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: https://www.ebscoh.... Updated September 1, 2017. Accessed February 12, 2020.
Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 2/5/2021
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