The Importance of Good Nutrition in Adolescence: How Healthy Eating Can Help Adolescents Thrive

The Importance of Good Nutrition in Adolescence: How Healthy Eating Can Help Adolescents Thrive
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The adolescent age is the most fascinating period of one’s life. During this period, children experience many changes in their body like the changes in hormones, height, weight, skin and so forth. It is the most rapid stage of growth and development in their life and leads to additional energy and nutrient requirements. A child starts making changes and modifications in his/her diet without proper guidance during this period.

Inclination towards non-nutritious foods like burgers, pizzas, aerated drinks, coffees, chocolates and other junk foods increases. Attentiveness towards one’s body and its appearance becomes the main concern. It is during this time that it is important for adolescents to understand that they are going through a growth phase and lack of proper nutrition can lead to deficiencies, which may bring about metabolic disorders during adulthood.

Healthy eating habits like having breakfast every day, not skipping regular meals, and making nutritious food choices should be encouraged. Parents should encourage their growing kids to make independent food choices, and they should provide them a variety of healthy foods at home and make family mealtimes a top priority. An average adolescent’s diet should include extra calories, protein, calcium, iron, zinc and most vitamins.


Adolescent energy requirements are influenced by BMR, activity level, and increased requirements to promote pubertal growth. So, additional calories are required to provide energy for growth and activity in adolescents. Adolescent males require more calories as they tend to be taller, heavier and have more lean body mass than females. They require between 2500 to 2800 calories per day. On the other hand, adolescent females need about 2200 calories per day. To meet these requirements, adolescents should opt for low-fat dairy products, lean protein sources, whole grains, vegetables and fruits.


Protein is most crucial for maintaining muscles during the adolescent growth spurt. The protein requirement per unit of height is higher in females between 11 to 14 years of age and for males between 15 to 18 years of age. Average adolescents require from 45 to 60 gm of protein every day. Mostly, teens meet this protein requirement with the intake of chicken, pork, beef, eggs, and dairy products. Other sources of protein are nuts, tofu, soy foods, and beans.


Peak bone mass - 45 percent - is accomplished during adolescence. Therefore, an adequate intake of calcium is important for skeletal growth. Adolescents between 9 to 18 years of age require 1200 to 1300 mg of calcium every day. Milk followed by cheese, yogurt, and calcium fortified juices, and cereals provide the greatest amount of calcium to growing adolescents.


Iron is vital for obtaining oxygen in the bloodstream and preventing anemia. For both male and female adolescents, iron is essential for growth, increasing blood volume, and muscle mass. Adolescent males require 12 mg of iron per day, whereas females require 15 mg. Iron is available in chicken, beef, pork, whole grains, legumes, and dark green leafy vegetables like collards, spinach and kale.


Zinc is crucial for gene expression and protein formation. It is important during adolescence because it plays an important role in growth and sexual maturation. Men with zinc deficiencies experience growth failure and delayed sexual development.

Zinc is abundantly found in shellfish, red meats, and whole grains. Other sources of zinc are breakfast cereals fortified with zinc. Adolescent vegetarians, mainly vegans who do not eat animal products, are at a high risk of zinc deficiency.


Mostly, adolescents are deficient in vitamins A, B6, E, D, C, and folic acid. However, adolescents who intake their daily requirements of nutrients are not deficient in these vitamins. Vitamin supplements cane taken to meet these requirements.

During adolescence, you grow both physically and socially. Therefore, the importance of good nutrition in adolescence should not be ignored. During these years, the nutrition choices adolescents make will not only affect their present health but their future health as well.