At no point in time in one’s life are they free to let go of nutritional needs, and childhood and teenage years are the foundation you can’t afford to mess up. As adolescence is a time of rapid physical and mental development, it is especially important that the teen’s nutritional requirements be met.
The fuel they need at this juncture comes in the form of calories, and each teenager will find this need unique to themselves. Girls between 13 and 18 will typically need to consume between 1,600 to 2,400 calories each day, while boys of the same age require a bit more, roughly 2,000 to 3,200. Active teens need an extra calorie boost to power their activities and development.
But the human body is more than just energy; it’s a structure, and that brings us to proteins, the building block of the body. It’s responsible for the growth, repair, and maintenance of tissues (something our fitness trainers won’t let us forget even now). On average, a teenager needs about 0.85 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. So, if you’re a 150-pound teen, you’re looking at approximately 58 grams of protein a day.
Our bodies prefer the dreaded carbohydrates as an energy source, with them making up 45-65% of a teenager’s total daily calories. This, unfortunately, doesn’t mean one can get their share through endless burgers or fries. For optimal health results, you need this share to come from complex sources in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, for lasting energy and a good dose of dietary fiber.
Fats, too, contrary to popular opinion, play a key role in teen nutrition. They provide a concentrated source of energy and are essential for absorbing certain vitamins. Around a quarter to a third of a teenager’s daily calories should come from fats. Again, the catch? You must choose wisely, focusing on healthy fats from avocados, nuts, and fish, while limiting the unhealthy, heart disease-promoting trans and saturated fats.
And we can’t part without mentioning the significance of vitamins and minerals. Teens need a diverse mix for various bodily functions, with an emphasis on the following:
- calcium for growing bones (about 1300 mg daily)
- iron to fuel growth spurts (about 11-15 mg daily)
- and vitamin D for immune function and aiding calcium absorption (about 600 IU daily).