When creating a healthy meal plan for teens, consider the number of calories a teenager needs daily, which is based on gender and activity level. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a teenage female needs 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day, depending on activity level, while a teen male needs 2,000 to 3,200 calories a day.
Basic Meal Plan for Teens
A teen's meal plan should contain a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Proteins should include lean beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs and cheese, suggest HealthyChildren.org; however, don't fret too much -- adolescents typically get twice as much protein as they need. Carbs should be mostly complex, such as whole-grain pasta and bread, brown rice and vegetables, and fat should comprise mostly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated in the form of olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds.
Getting your teen to eat a healthy meal can be difficult, given their busy schedules, picky palates and penchant for junk food. A potential morning meal might be two slices of whole-grain toast topped with natural peanut butter, a glass of skim milk and a small piece of fruit. At lunch, skip the school meal and pack an English muffin pizza made with tomato sauce, low-fat cheese and chopped veggies; add a side of low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese to provide extra calcium and protein. Finish the day with a healthy family meal, such as baked salmon with roasted vegetables and a side of brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. For males who need extra calories or very athletic females, boost the daily calorie count by eating bigger portions and adding nutrient-dense, high-calorie snacks, such as an extra slice of whole-grain toast topped with avocado slices, turkey and cheese sandwiches or homemade trail mix made with almonds, dried fruit and pretzels. Healthy beverages such as milk and 100 percent fruit juice can also provide extra calories with a dose of nutrition.