It's no secret that teenagers eat a lot, especially active teenage boys. During the teenage years, however, it's important that you eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet that will promote normal, healthy development. Proper nutrition is key, as is the importance of not skipping meals. Ideally, a teenager should be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.
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The teen years are a time of tremendous physical change and growth. During these years, a teenager will gain about 50 percent of her adult weight and 20 percent of adult height. Because this growth happens in a relatively short period of time, a teenager's requirements for all essential nutrients are higher than those of an adult, especially calcium and iron. A teenage boy, for example, should be taking in between 2,500 and 2,800 calories per day, while a girl should be getting about 2,200 per day. Ideally, you should be getting these calories from nutrient-rich foods such as lean protein, fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains. Teens have some very specific dietary requirements. A healthy daily diet for a teen should include between 45 and 60 grams of protein, 1,200 mg of calcium and between 12 and 15 mg of iron.
It's become something of a cliche, but there's a lot of truth to the old adage about breakfast being the most important meal of the day. A busy teen may be tempted to skip breakfast, but this is a bad idea. If you skip breakfast, you're depriving your body of nutrients you need to function at peak capacity throughout the day. Eating breakfast will "jump-start" your metabolism and may prevent you from the temptation of overeating later in the day. Quick, easy breakfast foods include yogurt, whole-wheat toast with some peanut butter, eggs and breakfast cereal. If you're really pressed for time, even grabbing a piece of cheese, a granola bar, a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts is preferable to skipping breakfast entirely.
You'll probably eat a more nutritious lunch if you bring a packed lunch from home instead of relying on the school cafeteria's offerings. An even worse choice is to have a quick lunch from a fast-food restaurant, most of which serve food that is high in fat and low in nutritional value. Bringing a homemade lunch to school gives you control over what you'll be eating, and you can ensure that the food you eat for lunch will provide you with the energy you'll need to carry you through the afternoon. Some ideal lunch choices include a turkey, lettuce and tomato sandwich on whole-wheat bread, a piece of fruit such as a banana or apple, or even a hearty soup, stew or chili.
Consistency is important when it comes to dinner. If you know that dinner will be at the same time every day, you may be less likely to fill up on unhealthy snacks and junk food. Although teens will gravitate toward junk food, there are healthier alternatives for many junk foods. For example, instead of fast-food french fries that are deep-fried in oil, serve oven-baked fries. You can also substitute grilled chicken for fried chicken or processed chicken nuggets. Most important, always include a vegetable as a side dish, whether it's a leafy green salad or steamed broccoli or cauliflower.