No one food or specific group of foods is going to help you grow faster. To grow at a healthy rate, you need a well-balanced diet that includes enough calories, carbs, protein and fat and include foods that provide all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs for normal growth. It's especially important to get enough protein, calcium and vitamins A and D. Consult a doctor if you're concerned about your growth rate.
Calories, Carbs, Protein and Fat
Getting enough calories is essential for adequate growth. Young children need 1,000 calories to 2,000 calories a day, depending on gender and level of activity, while older children and teens need 1,400 calories to 3,200 calories a day.
Carbs and fat are an important source of energy as well as essential vitamins and minerals. Protein is needed for building muscle and body tissue.
Children and teens should get 45 percent to 65 percent of their calories from carbs. However, fat and protein needs vary. Young children should get 5 percent to 20 percent of their calories from protein and 30 percent to 40 percent of their calories from fat, while older children and teens should get 10 percent to 35 percent of their calories from protein and 20 percent to 35 percent of calories from fat.
Nutrient-Rich Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables provide fiber, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and folate. They're also an important source of vitamin A, which is essential for growth. Depending on calorie requirements, growing children and teens need 1 cup to 4 cups of vegetables and 1 cup to 2 1/2 cups of fruits a day. Choose whole fruit over juice most of the time for the maximum nutrition.
Whole Grains for Energy
Whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice, are a naturally rich source of fiber, B vitamins and iron. At least half your grain choices should be whole grain, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov. Needs for grains range from 3 ounces to 10 ounces a day, where 1 ounce is equal to 1 cup of unsweetened ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup of rice or pasta or one slice of bread.
Go Lean for Protein
You need an adequate amount of protein to grow to your full potential, according to a 2006 article published in Scientific American. That doesn't mean you need to eat steak every night, however. Eat a variety of different types of proteins to get the most nutritional benefits. Good protein options include lean beef and pork, poultry, seafood, beans, soy products, nuts and seeds. Needs for children and teens range from 2 ounces to 7 ounces a day.
To make sure your bones grow along with your body, eat enough calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods, which include milk, yogurt and cheese. If you can't tolerate dairy products, look for plant-milk alternatives, such as soy or almond milk, that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Aim for 2 cups to 3 servings of these foods a day.
- KidsHealth: Boys and Puberty
- Scientific American: How Much of Human Height is Genetic and How Much is Due to Nutrition?
- Mid Michigan Child Care Food Program: Nutrients Needed for Growth and Development
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: My Daily Food Plan: 1,000 Calories
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: My Daily Food Plan: 3,200 Calories
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Grains