What Is a Balanced Diet for a Growing Teenage Boy or Teenage Girl?

cheerful woman eating salad in cafe
Balanced diets help teenagers reach their potential. (Image: rosipro/iStock/Getty Images)

Eating a balanced diet is extremely important for your teenager. Eating the proper balance of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and calcium-rich foods helps him stay healthy. Your teenager's balanced diet will contain greater amounts of some foods than your diet. The nutritional needs of teenage girls are different than teenage boys, as well.

Grains

Woman eating pizza outdoor in cafeteria.
Teenage girl eating pizza. (Image: kasto80/iStock/Getty Images)

Whole grains are an important part of your teenager's balanced diet. They provide fiber, B vitamins and energy to a growing teenager. Your teenager may dislike whole grain products, but a good rule of thumb is to make half of her grains whole. This means that she can still have her pizza, but eat her sandwiches on whole-grain bread. Depending on your teenager's age, she may need between 6 and 11 oz. of grains per day.

Fruits

Fruits and vegetables
Fruits are a delicious way to get nutrients. (Image: peangdao/iStock/Getty Images)

Fruits contribute vitamins, minerals and fiber to your teenager's balanced diet. Three to four medium pieces of fruit a day should be enough to help a teen stay healthy. He can substitute a cup of juice for the fruit, but even 100-percent juice does not have as many nutrients as the whole fruit. One cup of 100-percent fruit juice can be substituted for one piece of fruit. Encourage your teen to eat lots of different kinds of fruits.

Vegetables

vegetable market
Vegetables can protect your teenager from disease. (Image: michaelpuche/iStock/Getty Images)

A balanced diet for your teenager must include vegetables. They provide vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. The USDA, in their "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005," recommends that both teens and adults get at least five servings of vegetables per day. A serving is about a half cup of hard vegetables, like carrot sticks, or a whole cup of leafy vegetables, like salad greens. A variety of vegetables is best, whether they are tomatoes on hamburgers or spinach in a salad.

Protein Foods

medium roast steak
Protein is needed for growth. (Image: Pavlo_K/iStock/Getty Images)

Proteins are essential for your teenager's growing body. Lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts and beans are high-protein foods. Foods that provide protein usually have essential minerals as well. Iron is an especially important mineral for teenage girls. The monthly blood loss of menstruation puts them at a high risk for iron deficiency, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The best sources of iron are animal foods, particularly lean red meats. About 6 oz. of protein foods a day provides the protein that your teenager needs.

Calcium Foods

Dairy products on wooden table
Calcium builds strong bones. (Image: nevodka/iStock/Getty Images)

Calcium is essential for your teenager in order to have strong bones. Teenagers' requirement for calcium is higher now than at any other time in their lives, according to recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. Calcium foods include low-fat milk and low-fat milk products, like cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt. Tofu and fortified soy milk can also provide calcium. Four servings, consisting of a cup of milk or a small piece of cheese, will get your teenager the daily calcium she needs.

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