Here are some nutritional needs they require for their growth spurts.
Anyone who has a teenage child knows the legendary appetite that comes with growth spurts. Even if your child was a poor feeder in their early years, their love for food suddenly begins to increase, and as a parent, you may wonder about the best foods to feed your growing child – you may even remember your own experiences with eating everything you could get at that stage.
Surges in appetite in the pre-teen and teenage stages of a person are normal, and in fact, foreshadows the onset of puberty. It happens around the ages of twelve in boys and ten in girls, and if you are the parent of a teen or pre-teen, you may start to pile stocks of available snacks for your child in your refrigerator.
How many calories does a teen need?
This is dependent on several factors – their age, gender, and if they participate in physical activities like school sports. During the adolescence period, the body needs a greater amount of calories, much more than any other stage of life (which is why your appetite seemed to decrease after your teen years).
Girls will need 2,200 calories daily, while for boys it is 2,800 calories daily. Of course, these are all average estimations, and this requirement will decrease once the teen reaches adulthood. In addition, if the child participates in physical activity such as dancing or sports, they will still need increased amounts of food to give their bodies energy, even into late adolescence.
Interestingly, for girls, they tend to consume 25% fewer calories daily than boys when they reach their middle and late adolescent years, which leads to girls having nutritional deficiencies in minerals and vitamins.
Main nutrients your teen needs
Proteins are essential in the human body because they promote the development and growth of the muscles and tissues, more so for adolescents. For the body to keep its maintenance for them, they will need about 45 to 60 grams daily.
The good news is that the densest sources of protein will mostly be favorites of your teen, for instance, chicken, fish, and beef (especially grass-fed beef). Other sources include peas, soya, beans, eggs, yogurt, cheese, and wheat germ. If your teen is a vegetarian, you can also consider sources such as almonds, peanut butter, walnuts, and kidney beans.
For the requirement of energy for your growing child, carbohydrates are a good source of energy, regardless of whether they are simple or complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are those found in vegetables, fruits, milk products and milk itself. Complex carbohydrates not only provide energy but are also a good fiber source. Teens will tend to consume high amounts of simple carbohydrates and junk food, so you should encourage them to consume more complex carbohydrates.
The sources of complex carbohydrates can include legumes, whole grains, cereals, and starchy vegetables.
Many teens will have deficiencies of iron in their diet, particularly girls, as this is also the stage they are experiencing menstruation for the first time. Improper intake of this nutrient will lead to fatigue and anemia, so it is important to ensure they consume sufficient amounts of it.
Iron is important for the proper functioning of the brain and muscles, as it is responsible for supplying oxygen (hemoglobin), proper functioning of the brain, as well as developing the strength of the immune system.
Girls require at least 15 mg of iron due to menstrual loss, while boys need at least 12 mg. Good sources of iron include nuts, green leafy vegetables, meat, and whole grains.
The lack of calcium, or insufficient amounts of it, leads to problems in later life, especially with osteoporosis and weak bones.
To prevent these circumstances occurring, your teen needs about 1,200 mg of calcium daily from the food they consume. Good sources include leafy vegetables, dairy products, and milk, as well as cereals and whole grains. In addition, it is good to encourage them to reduce their consumption of soda, as well as very sugary foods and drinks, because these suck up calcium from their bones.
Minerals and vitamins
This is placed last because the amounts will be sufficient as long as they get enough amounts of all the other nutrients. The minerals and vitamins serve to build their immunity, so this also guards their health against conditions such as weakness, anemia, night blindness, and other conditions.
Sometimes, the teenager might need extra amounts of these nutrients, so they may get prescriptions of nutritional supplements from doctors, depending on their needs.
Dense sources of these nutrients include leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggs, papaya, mangoes, milk and dairy products, and peaches. Others include oranges, egg yolks, salmon, nuts, bananas, beans, and avocados.
Encouraging your teens to eat
Promoting healthy nutritional habits is something that should begin from childhood – or else, you will spend too much time fighting with your teen over how they should eat. However, you can enhance your efforts by:
Not forcing them in the first place
Teens are some of the most stubborn individuals; they will constantly want to assert themselves – all a part of growth. Do not push the issue too much on them, avoid sounding preachy, otherwise they will just resent you, and always present healthy options that are interesting and tasty while they are at home.
Involve your teen in meal preparation
You will encourage them to eat the food if they feel involved in its making. Give them responsibilities in the kitchen, encourage them to come up with interesting food ideas, and when you go grocery shopping, go with them and teach them the basics of picking healthy food items such as spirulina.
Videos and articles exist on the internet that talks about the goodness of certain foods and the harmful effects of others – so make sure you share this information with them whenever you can.
Teens have various nutritional needs as they grow, but the prevalence of junk food is something they need to be watchful about. As a parent, you can do your part to ensuring they eat healthily, and this also requires cooperation by them as well, otherwise, the effort will go to waste.