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The special nutritional needs of teenagers

This is growth spurt time!

Kids gain about 20% of adult height and 50% of adult weight during adolescence.
Because growth and change is so rapid during this period, the requirements for all nutrients increase.

This is especially true of calcium and iron.

Calcium is Critical

Calcium, critical to bone development and density, is one of the nutrients that can easily fall through the cracks.  Calcium needs are higher than ever during the teen years -- 1,300 milligrams a day. Yet calcium consumption often drops off in teenagers as they replace milk with soft drinks. Research shows that 9th- and 10th-grade girls who drink soft drinks are three times as likely to suffer a bone fracture than those who do not drink them.

In addition to being naturally rich in calcium, milk is fortified with vitamin D, which also helps to shore up bones. Certain yogurts contain vitamin D; check the label to be sure. While they're calcium-rich, hard cheeses lack vitamin D.

Teens require the calcium equivalent of about four 8-ounce glasses of milk daily. Here are some other foods that supply as much calcium as a glass of milk:

• 8 ounces yogurt
• 1 1/2 ounces hard cheese
• 8 ounces calcium-added orange juice
• 2 cups low-fat cottage cheese.

Girls Need Extra Iron

Iron, as a part of red blood cells, is necessary for ferrying oxygen to every cell in the body. It's crucial to a teen's brain function, immunity, and energy level. Girls aged 14 to 18 need 15 milligrams per day. Boys in the same age range need 11 milligrams.
Iron deficiency is common in adolescent females and people who limit or eschew meat. Menstruating young women are at increased risk for an iron shortfall because their diets may not contain enough iron-rich foods to make up for monthly losses.
Iron is found in both animal and plant foods. The iron in animal foods is better absorbed by the body, but consuming a vitamin-C rich food along with plant iron increases uptake. Serve these iron-rich animal foods to your teen as part of a balanced diet (shoot for 4-6 ounces a day):

• Beef
• Poultry
• Pork
• Clams
• Oysters
• Eggs

Good non-meat sources of iron include:
• Vegetables (including spinach, green peas, and asparagus)
• Beans
• Nuts
• Iron-fortified breads, cereal, rice, and pasta.

A multivitamin with 100% or less of the Daily Value for iron, vitamin D and other nutrients fills in the gaps in less-than-stellar diets. But multivitamins do not contain enough calcium to make up for inadequate consumption of calcium-rich foods. Your child may need a calcium supplement too

Snack On
Hungry teens have a hard time holding off for the next meal. Done right, snacking can provide the nutrients your son or daughter needs. These healthy snacks also double as quick breakfasts:

• Whole grain bagel spread with peanut butter and topped with raisins; milk
• Leftover pizza; 100% orange juice
• 8 ounces low-fat fruited yogurt; whole grain toast; 100% juice
• Fruit and yogurt smoothie; whole grain toast
• Hard-boiled eggs; whole grain roll; fruit
• Waffle sandwich (two whole grain toasted waffles spread with almond, peanut, or
   soy nut butters); milk
• Trail mix made from low-sugar cereal, dried fruit, chopped nuts or roasted soybeans, and mini-                chocolate chips
• Sandwiches on whole grain bread
• Hummus or peanut butter and whole grain crackers
• Bowl of whole grain cereal; fruit; low-fat milk
• Vegetables and low-fat yogurt dip
• Reduced-fat mozzarella cheese sticks and low-fat crackers
• Low-fat microwave popcorn topped with grated Parmesan cheese; 100% juice
• Yogurt with whole grain cereal mixed in
• Low-fat cottage cheese and whole grain crackers or whole grain toast
• Nuts; 100% juice.

Youth Task Force of Martha's Vineyard