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Nutrition Guide for Teenagers

Nutrition Guide for Teenagers
A close-up of a teenage girl packing a healthy lunch. Photo Credit dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images

Having healthy eating habits during your teenage years can reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, certain cancers, heart disease and diabetes later in life. Adolescence is a time of rapid growth, which means you require more energy and nutrients. The key is to have a nutritious and healthy diet.

Balanced Diet

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that teenagers have a balanced and varied diet. Eat five fruits and vegetables per day. These can be fresh, frozen, dried or canned. For energy, eat carbohydrate foods, such as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes. Eat whole-grain and whole-meal versions. Eat lean meat, poultry, eggs, fish, beans and nuts to boost your daily protein intake. Protein builds and repairs the tissues in your growing body. This nutrient also gives you strength and energy.


Snacking on unhealthy foods can lead to unnecessary weight gain. Having breakfast will prevent this. Breakfast gives you the energy you need to start your day and also helps with your memory and concentration. If you get hungry between meals, avoid snacking on chips, chocolates, cookies, cakes and other high-fat or high-sugar foods. These foods contain saturated fat, which can increase the risk of developing heart disease if eaten frequently. Snack on more nutritious foods such as cheese, yogurt and fruit.

Calcium and Iron

The body's demand for calcium is at its highest during adolescence. Calcium is vital in your diet to build strong bones and teeth. A low intake of calcium during this time can lead to osteoporosis later in life. This is a bone disease where the bones become fragile and likely to fracture. From ages 13 to 18, the daily recommended allowance of calcium is 1,300mg, according to the National Institutes of Health. For age 19, the daily recommended allowance of calcium is 1,000mg. Milk Matters recommends that teenagers drink 3 cups of reduced-fat milk and a serving of calcium-rich food per day. Eat calcium-rich foods such as low-fat dairy foods, green leafy vegetables and fish. Iron also is an important mineral in a teen's diet. Eat iron-rich food such as meat, poultry, liver, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, green leafy vegetables, pulses, beans and nuts.

Eating Out

Limit how often you eat out. Cafeterias, vending machines, restaurants and fast foods usually serve unhealthy foods. Fast foods, especially, serve foods high in saturated fats, salt and cholesterol. Instead, bring lunches from home consisting of three or four food groups, says the Food and Nutrition Research Institute. For example, your lunch can include a chicken sandwich on whole-meal bread, low-fat yogurt, a fruit and a portion of vegetables. If you eat out, control your portion size by sharing with someone or by ordering an appetizer as your main meal.


Having healthy drinks during the day can help you maintain a healthy weight. Avoid soda and soft drinks, which contain "empty" calories and a lot of sugar. Instead, aim to drink at least 8 cups of water per day. You can also try flavored water for variation. Drink milk to boost your daily allowance of calcium, magnesium, vitamins D, B12 and A.

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