A 14-year old girl is going through many biological and psychological changes. These changes directly affect what, how much and how often she should eat. Several other aspects also affect her diet, such as socioeconomic status and geographical location. Fourteen-year old girls are more prone to body-image issues than boys and are more likely to try a vegetarian diet. Body-image concerns lead to skipping meals and drastic dieting during a period in their life when their bodies require more energy, protein, vitamins and minerals.
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The energy needs of your 14-year old girl depends on how physically active she is. Energy required is referring to the number of calories she gets from food. A teenage girl who is moderately active, which means that she engages in 60 minutes or more of physical activity most days of the week, requires approximately 2,368 calories per day, according to Judith Brown in “Nutrition Through the Life Cycle.” Physical activities for the moderately active include brisk walking, jump roping, running, dancing and other activities that expend energy. Of course, if a girl is less active and only engages in physical activity a few days a week or less, she will require fewer calories. In either case, if she fails to get adequate energy through her diet, sexual maturation and physical growth can be delayed. A 14-year old girl should not have to worry about counting calories as long as she eats balanced meals with healthy proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and stays physically active.
Protein is necessary for muscle development, hair growth, injury repair and to carry oxygen in the blood. A typical 14-year-old girl requires more protein during her teen years than she will as an adult because of aggressive growth spurts and the start of her menstrual cycle. The recommended daily allowance, or RDA, of protein established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is approximately 46 g of protein per day for a 14-year-old girl. For reference and meal planning, a 3 oz piece of red meat has approximately 21 g of protein and 1 cup of whole milk has approximately 8 g of protein.
Carbohydrates are the primary foods that fuel the body for expending energy. On one hand, it is fortunate that most 14-year-old girls are meeting the daily requirements for carbohydrates. On the other hand, it is unfortunate that, according to Brown, approximately 21 percent of the carbohydrates come from sweeteners in sodas, candy and other processed foods. Your 14-year-old girl should be getting approximately 130 g of carbohydrates a day if she is moderately active. Those grams, however, should come from more nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables and fruits, and not processed foods like potato chips and soda.
Everybody needs dietary fat to maintain normal growth and hormonal functions. A teenage girl concerned with her body image may not agree, however. Fat is usually the first thing to be eliminated from her diet. In reality, your 14-year-old should be getting approximately 25 percent to 35 percent of her energy from fat, according to the 2005 U.S. dietary guidelines summarized on TeensHealth.org. This amount of fat is not very much when 1 g of fat has nine calories, but it is necessary. Your daughter’s choice in dietary fat is important. Trans and saturated fats are the worst and can increase the risk of heart disease, so they should be limited. They are found in processed fast foods and animal products. The healthiest fats for your daughter to incorporate into her diet are polyunsaturated fats found in fish and soybeans, and monounsaturated fats found in olives, nuts and avocados.