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:
Giving them healthful foods from all food groups
Not giving them foods that are high in sugar or fat, such as candy bars, chips, cakes, cookies, donuts, and sugary drinks
Giving your teen just enough food and then letting your teen have more if they are still hungry (serving too much food at one time can lead to overeating)
Your teen needs:
Carbohydrates (carbs): This is your teen's main source of energy. About half of their calories should come from carbs. Your teen should choose healthy carbs like whole grains, fruits, veggies, and milk.
Protein: Your teen needs
to grow and build muscle. About a quarter of your teen’s calories should come from protein. Good sources are poultry, lean meat, seafood, eggs, nuts, soy, legumes, and low-fat and nonfat dairy products.
Fat: Teens need about a quarter of their calories as fat. It helps with growth. Fat also helps the body take in vitamins
and keep the skin healthy. Your teen should eat healthy fats, such as those found in vegetable oils, nuts, avocados, olives, and fatty fish.
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:
Helps keep the heart in rhythm, builds strong bones, and keeps blood pressure within a normal range
Whole grains, green veggies, and legumes
Foods with fiber may put off heart disease and some kinds of
cancer. It can also ease
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.
(1 ounce = 1 slice bread; ¼ bagel; ½ cup cooked pasta or rice; 5 whole wheat crackers)
12 to 18 years old: 6 ounces
12 years old: 7 ounces
15 years old: 9 ounces
18 years old: 10 ounces
At least ½ of grains should be whole grains
Whole grains are whole wheat products, oatmeal, brown rice, barley, popcorn
(1 cup = 1 cup raw or cooked veggies; 2 cups raw leafy veggies)
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.
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