A Teenager’s Nutritional Needs (Paediatric Nutrition)
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A Teenager’s Nutritional Needs (Paediatric Nutrition)
Home  / A Teenager’s Nutritional Needs (Paediatric Nutrition)

A Teenager’s Nutritional Needs (Paediatric Nutrition)

Usually, teenagers assert their independence is by making their own food choices. These could be governed by peer pressure, social media, family pressures or tradition.  Hence it’s not surprising that good eating habits are often a problem for teenagers. With growth and development being most rapid during teenage years and the requirement for most nutrients being relatively high, it’s important that the nutritional needs of teenagers (Pediatric Nutrition) are kept to the optimal requirements so as to ensure health and growth and development.


Calories are the measurement used to express the energy delivered by food. The body demands more calories during early adolescence than at any other time of life.

  • Boys require an average of 2,800 calories per day.
  • Girls require an average of 2,200 calories per day.


Typically, the ravenous hunger starts to wane once a child has stopped growing, though not always. Those with a more athletic built or those who participate in physical activity will still need increased amounts of energy into late adolescence.


The nutrients proteincarbohydrates, and fats in food serve as the body’s energy sources.

  • Each gram of protein and carbohydrate supplies 4 calories, or units of energy.
  • Fat contributes more than twice as much: 9 calories per gram.

50% of our body weight is made up of protein and is one of the essential nutrients for growth.

The largest sources of protein include teenage favorites such as:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

Carbohydrates, found in starches and sugars, get converted into the body’s main fuel: the simple sugar glucose. Not all carbs are created equal, however. In planning meals, we want to push complex-carbohydrate foods and go easy on simple carbohydrates. Complex carbs provide sustained energy; that’s why you often see marathon runners and other athletes downing big bowls of pasta before competing. As a bonus, many starches deliver fiber and assorted nutrients too. They are truly foods of substance: filling yet low in fat.

  • It is recommend that complex carbohydrates make up 50% to 60% of a teenager’s caloric intake.
  • Simple carbs, on the other hand, seduce us with their sweet taste and a brief burst of energy but have little else to offer and should be minimized in the diet.
Dietary Fat

Fat should make up no more than 30% of the diet. Fat supplies energy and assists the body in absorbing the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K. But these benefits must be considered next to its many adverse effects on health. A teenager who indulges in a fat-heavy diet is going to put on weight, even if he’s active.

Dietary fat contains varying proportions of three types:

  • Monounsaturated fat —the healthiest kind; found in olives and olive oil; peanuts, peanut oil and peanut butter; cashews; walnuts and walnut oil, and canola oil.
  • Polyunsaturated fat —found in corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and sesame-seed oil.
  • Saturated fat —is the most cholesterol laden of the three; found in meat and dairy products like beef, pork, lamb, butter, cheese, cream, egg yolks, coconut oil, and palm oil.

You want to limit your family’s intake of saturated fat to no more than 10% of your total daily calories. The other 20% of daily calories from dietary fat should come equally from the two unsaturated kinds of fat, both of which are contained mainly in plant oils.

If your family eats a lot of packaged and processed foods: Make a habit of reading the food labels. You may be surprised to see how much fat, sugar, and salt (sodium), is in the foods you eat every day. And almost all packaged goods that contain fat are likely to have partially hydrogenated fat, because it has a longer shelf life.

Vitamins and Minerals

A well-rounded diet should deliver sufficient amounts of all the essential vitamins and minerals. Adolescents tend to most often fall short of their daily quotas of calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin D. It’s preferable to obtain nutrients from food instead of from dietary supplements.

Physical Workout

It is recommended that young people should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (where you raise your heart rate and feel warmer, but should still be able to hold a conversation) to vigorous intensity physical activity (where your heart rate is much more rapid, you feel warmer and find it much more difficult to hold a conversation) every day.

Examples of moderate intensity physical activity include:

  • walking to school or college
  • walking the dog
  • riding a non-motorized scooter
  • rollerblading
  • cycling on level ground/ground with few hills

Examples of vigorous intensity physical activity includes:

  • fast running
  • swimming
  • football
  • tennis/badminton

The daily 60 minutes can be achieved through short bursts of physical activity, as well as longer training sessions such as organized sports and exercise classes.

Maintaining physical activity throughout the adolescent years also means that the risk of chronic diseases in later life can be reduced and help to increase bone mass.

It is also important that adolescents minimize the amount of time they spend doing sedentary activities, such as watching TV, using the computer, playing video games or travelling by car, bus or train.