Not all teenagers may have the same nutritional requirements. The United States Department of Agriculture provides age ranges on which to base teen nutritional requirements. Teenagers may fall into one of three age brackets: the 9 to 13-year old age bracket, the 14 to 18-year-old age bracket or the 19 to 30-year-old age bracket. As a result, a 13-year-old or 19-year-old may have very different nutritional requirements than their peers who fall into the 14 to 18-year-old age bracket. Nutritional needs may also vary by gender.
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During adolescence, the body needs more calories than at any other time in life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Although specific calorie needs vary, the AAP suggests that the average teenage boy get about 2,800 calories per day and the average teenage girl get about 2,200 calories a day. These calories should come from nutrient-rich foods, including grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy products. Teenagers should limit the amount of fat, especially saturated and trans fat, and sugar they eat.
Grain products are a good source of dietary fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium. The daily grain recommendations for teens are based on ounce equivalents. An ounce equivalent may include a 1/2 cup serving of cooked rice or pasta, 1 cup of cereal or one slice of bread. Thirteen year old girls should get 5 oz. of grain a day, and girls who are between the ages of 14 and 19 should get 6 oz. equivalents of grain a day. Thirteen year old boys should get 6 oz. of grain a day, and boys between the ages of 14 and 19 should get 9 oz. equivalents of grain a day. All teens should aim to get at least half of their grains from whole grain products.
Fruits provide numerous vitamins and minerals, including nutrients that many teenagers don't get enough of such as fiber, vitamin C, folate and potassium, according to the USDA. Teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 18 should get 1 ½ cups of fruit a day, and 19-year-old females should get 2 cups of fruit a day. Teenage boys who are 13-years-old should get 1 ½ cups of fruit, but all other teenage boys should get 2 cups of fruit a day. A cup of fruit may consist of 1 cup of fruit juice, one-half cup serving of dried fruit or 1 cup of raw or cooked fruit.
Vegetables also contain numerous vitamins and minerals without providing unnecessary calories, sodium or fat. Vegetables are also a good source of dietary fiber. Teenage girls who are 13 years old should get 2 servings of vegetables, and female teenagers older than 13 should get 2 ½ cups of vegetables a day. Teenage boys who are 13 years old should get 2 ½ servings of vegetables, and teenage boys older than 13 should get 3 cups of vegetables a day. A serving of vegetables can be a 1 cup of vegetable juice, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 2 cups of raw leafy greens.
Teenagers need protein for proper growth and development because protein is a building block for muscles, bones, skin, blood, hormones and enzymes. All teenage girls should get 5 oz. equivalents of protein each day. Teenage boys who are 13 should also get 5 oz. of protein a day, and teenage boys older than 13 should get 6 ½ oz. equivalents. An ounce equivalent of protein may consist of 1 egg, 1 tbsp. of peanut butter, one-half-oz. serving of nuts or seed or a 1 oz. serving of poultry, fish or meat.
Since bone mass is built during adolescence, diary intake during the teenage years is especially important. All teenagers, regardless of age or gender, should get 3 cups of dairy each day. A cup of dairy is equal to 1 ½ oz. of natural cheese, 2 oz. of processed cheese, 1 cup of yogurt, 1 cup of soy milk or 1 cup of milk.
Most teenagers can meet their nutritional needs through a balanced and healthy diet, but taking a multivitamin can help ensure that the recommended dietary allowance of each vitamin and mineral is met. Adolescents tend to have the most difficulty getting enough iron, calcium and zinc, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.Talk to your teen's doctor if you think she may benefit from a supplement