Diet for a 16-Year-Old Girl Who Wants to Lose Weight

Father and daughter making pancakes
Help your teen girl learn proper nutrition instead of focusing on weight loss. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photolibrary/GettyImages)

If your 16-year-old daughter wants to go on a diet, she's not alone. Teen girls are prone to worrying about their looks, especially the shape of their body in comparison to their peers and media images.

Many teens attempt to lose weight by skipping meals, eliminating entire food groups, or by crash dieting. If your teen expresses a desire to lose weight, encourage her to make healthy lifestyle changes so that she can maintain a healthy weight, rather than going on a strict diet. Consult a doctor or a dietitian to determine a healthy weight for your teen.

Nutritional Needs for a 16-Year-Old Girl

A 16-year-old girl needs between 1,800 and 2,400 calories per day, depending on her activity level. Aim for the lower end of the range to lose weight, but avoid very low calorie diets, which likely will lack important nutrients for teenagers.

Teen girls should consume a minimum of 46 grams of protein and 28 grams of fiber per day. Calcium and iron are two nutrients that are especially important but are often lacking in the diets of teen girls. A 16-year-old girls needs 1,300 milligrams per day and 15 milligrams of iron each day.

For a teen girl to lose weight while meeting all her nutritional needs, she should consume 1,800 calories daily, divided into three healthy meals and two snacks.

Start With a Healthy, Protein-rich Breakfast

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published in 2013 noted that teenagers often skip breakfast, and this practice is strongly associated with obesity. This study showed that a high-protein diet can curb daily appetite and reduce evening snacking. Eggs, ground turkey, whey protein, low-fat cottage cheese and low-fat Greek yogurt are protein-rich foods that are great breakfast options.

Do avoid full-fat dairy and processed meats as sources of protein.

Lunch Choices for a Weight-Loss Diet

Whether from the school cafeteria or from a brown bag, a healthy lunch on a weight-loss diet should consist of a lean protein, a small serving of whole grains, a fruit, a vegetable — and if possible — a low-fat dairy product. For a brown bag lunch, a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread, carrot sticks, an apple and a container of low-fat yogurt is nutritious, and rounds out to approximately 540 calories.

Other options include a salad with romaine lettuce, grilled chicken and low-fat dressing along with a whole-grain roll, a cup of berries and a glass of low-fat milk or half of a whole-grain pita filled with hummus, an ounce of low-fat feta cheese, cucumbers and grape tomatoes with 1 cup of grapes and a cup of vegetable soup.

Healthy Dinner Choices

End the day with a nutrient-rich dinner for under 500 calories, such as a 6-ounce salmon fillet with steamed broccoli, a medium, baked sweet potato with a teaspoon of butter and a leafy green salad.

Make a quesadilla with 2 tablespoons of cheddar cheese and a half cup of black beans in a whole wheat tortilla. Top the quesadilla with salsa and serve it with a salad, for another dinner that's less than 500 calories.

Snacking for a 16-Year-Old Girl

If your meals are between 400 and 500 calories each, there should be room in the diet plan for two 150- to 200-calorie snacks during the day. Make them count by choosing nutrient-dense snacks such as low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, veggies and hummus, or 1 ounce of plain roasted nuts.

Avoid dietary pitfalls such as snack foods — cheese crackers, chips, cookies, granola bars and soda contain a lot of empty calories. Also, fancy coffee drinks, juices and sports drinks add calories with little to no nutritional value.

Exercise for a Healthy Weight

Staying physically active is important for maintaining a healthy weight. Teens should get one hour of physical activity most days of the week. If your teen daughter wants to lose weight, encourage her to stay active by playing a sport or pursuing an activity she enjoys, such as dance.

Exercise doesn't have to be formal, either. Move with your teen by taking a walk after dinner or playing basketball in the driveway. A note of caution: If you think your daughter may be compulsively exercising or obsessing over her fitness routine, consult a doctor.

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