When you’re a girl entering your teen years, eating a well-balanced diet is an easy way to boost your daily energy and improve your health while increasing your chances of reaching your ideal height and weight. But you may not know what “well-balanced” really means. To make sure you’re eating the right amount of the right foods, focus on eating the serving sizes recommended for 13-year-old girls by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As a 13-year-old girl, you should be eating about 2 cups’ worth of vegetables every day. A 1-cup serving of vegetables is equivalent to about 1 cup of broccoli florets, 2 cups of raw leafy green vegetables such as spinach, 1 cup of cooked leafy greens or two medium carrots. Although many vegetables have nutritional value, some of the healthiest are the brightest in color. Red bell peppers, bright orange carrots and dark green vegetables such as spinach all fall under that umbrella.
Aim for at least 1 ½ cups of fruits every day. A 1-cup serving of fruit equals about one large banana or peach, 1 cup of 100-percent juice or ½ cup of dried fruit. Fruits are rich in nutrients such as potassium, fiber and vitamin C, but fruit juice has had its fiber removed. Because fiber improves your digestion and can help keep your stomach full, most of your fruit servings should come from fruit rather than juice, according to KidsHealth. If you eat canned fruit, eat the kind that is canned in juice instead of sugary syrup.
You need about 6 oz. of grains per day, but at least half of your grains servings should be whole rather than refined because whole grains still have their fiber and all of their nutrients. Examples of refined grains are white rice and white bread. Examples of whole grain foods are oatmeal, air popped popcorn, quinoa and whole grain spaghetti. To get your daily 3 oz. of whole grains, you could start your day with a bowl of oatmeal, make your lunch sandwiches on wheat bread and ask your parents to serve brown rice with dinner.
You should eat about 5 oz. of protein per day. Protein comes from animal products such as poultry and fish, but you can still get plenty of protein in your diet if you’re a vegetarian because foods such as beans, peas, tofu, nuts and seeds are also full of protein. A 1-oz. serving of protein equals about one egg, 1 tbsp. of peanut butter, 1/2 oz. of nuts and 1 oz. of poultry or fish.
You need about 3 cups of dairy each day to grow properly. A 1-cup serving of dairy equals about one 8-oz. container of yogurt, 1/3 cup of shredded cheese, 1 cup of milk or 2 cups of cottage cheese, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some foods that are dairy aren’t a part of the dairy group because they contain little or no calcium. These foods include cream cheese and butter. If you can’t digest dairy, foods such as calcium-fortified juices and soy milk can help you get enough calcium to grow well.
You should usually stick to lean proteins and low-fat or skim dairy foods. The fattier versions of these groups are higher in saturated fat, which can contribute to heart disease if you eat too much of it. Because you still need some fats in your diet, though, you may be wondering where you can find them. Stick to oils, which stay liquid when they are at room temperature. Many healthy oils, such as vegetable and olive oil, are often used in cooking. Oils are also in many fish and plant foods such as nuts, olives, avocados and seeds. Aim for about 5 tsp. of oils a day.