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A Teenager’s Nutritional Needs

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Teenagers and their food requirements can feel like an enigma: challenging to figure out and frustrating to know where to start. They are in that phase between childhood and adulthood, which has its own requisites for taking care of physical and mental health.

It can be difficult for parents to pay attention to teenagers’ food intake because they start to make independent decisions at this time of life. But concentrating on providing adequate nutrition during the teen years can go a long way in their well-being as an adult when they work on their career and start a family of their own.

Nutritional Needs of a Teenager

What happens during the teenage years?

Teenage is the age between 13 to 19, and puberty or sexual maturation can occur during this time. With this comes the influx of hormones and associated drama. Both sexes are equally affected by this physically and psychologically. Due to these hormones, the bodies experience a growth spurt (a sudden development) during the teen years.

The growth spurt mandates eating large quantities of healthy, nutritious food to achieve good holistic health, concentrate better, and perform daily activities normally.

What is the calorie intake recommended for teenagers?

In moderately active teenagers, the typical calorie intake is 2000 calories for girls and 2800 calories for boys per day. This may increase or decrease depending on the physical activities taken up by them. For young athletes, the required calorie intake can be as high as 5000 calories per day. For a better food routine, track your teenager’s calories burnt in a typical day and make sure their food intake supplements it.

Remember not to be too strict about the calorie count, as it can lead to other eating disorders and become unhealthy, defeating the very purpose. The calorie needs are found to increase with age (after 14 years) for boys and stay the same with age (throughout teen years) for girls.

What are the teenager’s required essential nutrients?

The teenager’s required essential nutrients can be divided into two categories:

Macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat

Micronutrients: Vitamins and Minerals

It is vital to include all types of nutrition in the everyday meal of a teenager. The sources of these required essential nutrients can be vegan or meat. But make sure they consume the required quantity of all nutrients continuously. The intake will vary depending on the weight and physical activity of the boy or girl.

Recommended nutrient quantity


Protein is responsible for the growth of the human body. Ensuring sufficient protein intake is necessary for the teenage years to support the growth spurt and ensure healthy muscle development. Of the recommended calories, 10-35% should come from protein.

Protein intake for an average teenager should ideally be 45 to 60g per day, approximately 0.85 to 0.95 grams per kg. For teenagers in sports who are highly active, protein of up to 1.5 grams per kg might be required.

Protein-rich meat foods: Eggs, Chicken breast, Lean beef, Tuna fish, Shrimp

Protein-rich vegan foods: Almonds, Oats, Sprouts, Greek Yoghurt, Broccoli, Milk, Quinoa, Lentils, Ezekiel bread, Pumpkin seeds, Peanuts

For teenagers with special conditions or growth abnormalities, consult a doctor about taking protein supplements.


On the topic of healthy food, carbohydrates are always considered to be bad. This is entirely untrue. Carbohydrates give the energy to stay active throughout the day, whatever activities are performed. Carbohydrates are not evil; instead, a lack of other kinds of nutrition is what is a bad practice. A teenager gets 45-65% of total calories from carbs. Boys should eat 225 to 325g per day, and girls should consume 295 to 425g of carbs per day.

Carbohydrates are mainly classified into two types: simple and complex. Simple carbs are easy to digest, so teenagers might feel hungry quickly when consuming these. The idea is to cut down on and not altogether remove simple carbs and eat more food with complex carbs. It is good to stay away from refined carbohydrates from processed junk food as much as possible. Most aerated drinks contain only empty sugars and so teenagers gain only added calories and no nutrition upon drinking them. Try to avoid the overconsumption of such beverages.

Simple carb foods: Fruits, Vegetables, Honey, Sugarcane, Beet, Malted wheat, Barley, Beer, Mushrooms, Dairy products, Beetroot, Carrot

Complex carb foods: Legumes, Onion, Asparagus, Cereal foods, Potato, Sweet Potato, Unripe fruits, Pulses, Whole Grains, Peas, Brown rice


While it is always better to cut down on fat, it is required in small amounts for the smooth functioning of the body system. Sources of healthy fats in food like Olive oil, Almonds, Nuts, Seeds, Soya Beans, Avocados, Tofu, Corn, Cheese, and Full-fat yogurt should make up 25-35% of the total calorie intake for teenagers.

What are the other teenager’s required essential nutrients?

In addition to the macronutrients, small quantities of other important stuff like calcium, iron, vitamins, and minerals play a critical role in maintaining any teenager’s immunity and long-term health.

Iron is particularly important for girls, as they tend to lose much of it during their menstrual cycles. Lack of sufficient iron can cause anemia. On average, boys need 11g of, and girls require 15g of iron daily. Spinach, Legumes, red meat, pumpkin seed, broccoli, and dark chocolates are some of the iron-rich foods.

Calcium deficiency can affect the growth of bones, vitamin D deficiency can cause muscle pain, and zinc deficiency can contribute to decreased immunity levels. These are only some of the many micronutrients essential for good health.

Excellent sources of calcium are milk, poppy seeds, chia seeds, sesame, celery, cheese, yogurt, salmon, beans, lentils, almonds, leafy grains, etc. A lot of these contain a good quantity of zinc as well. Fig is another wonder food rich in calcium and potassium that can improve hemoglobin. Indian gooseberry is great for enhancing vitamin C levels, which are required for the growth and repair of tissues.

In addition to all these, ensure sufficient time under the sun to absorb adequate vitamin D. Teenagers with other conditions or allergies to certain foods should consult a doctor to form a diet plan or include supplements.

Here are some easy nutritious food recipes for teenagers

Right. We have understood the nutritional needs of a teenager. But they can be picky eaters. Finding healthy, tasty food that they will like and are also easy to make is a pretty challenging task to do day in and day out. But fret not! We got your covered.

A healthy relationship with food

Before managing their diet, ensure your children have a healthy relationship with food. Pictures in social media, celebrity body goals, and high school are making it more and more difficult for them not to overeat or undereat. To develop good eating habits, talk to your kids about the ingredients added and the type of nutrients they contain. If possible, include them while preparing meals. This will give them a sense of control, and have fun by experimenting with the different flavors.

If you cannot nudge your children to have a good and healthy relationship with food, ensure they get help from people who treat eating disorders. In their teen years, their habits and routine develop. So it is crucial for them to see food as a source of energy and nutrition. When eating disorders are treated, you can help your child to do this and regulate their food intake for better health.


First, let us check out some easy-to-make international cuisine teens would love to experience. The main ingredients are rich in protein and fiber and make a fulfilling and delicious meal. With slight twists, you get a whole new dish altogether. We are sure teenagers will fall in love and ask for more every time you prepare these.


You heard it right. We are talking about burgers, known for their unhealthy association. Teenagers love burgers because of the delicious mix of ingredients. Suffice it to say; the patty is the central part of any burger. You can prepare different types of burgers by experimenting with the ingredients used in the patty. The preparation time is very less, and it is pretty easy to cook.

How to make healthy burgers?

Check out the following detailed recipes:

  • Paneer Burger: Paneer is a rich source of protein, and when paired with appropriate seasoning, the resulting meal always comes out to be delicious.
  • Spinach Burger: Spinach is filled with fiber, protein and vitamins. It makes wholesome food and takes a lot of time to digest. Almost all of the calories in spinach come from protein.
  • Grilled Crab Burger: Crabmeat comprises protein and high levels of vitamin B12. It also contains other micronutrients such as copper, phosphorous and selenium.

For a healthier twist, use whole-grain seeded burger buns instead of processed white bread.

If you cannot find whole-grain burger buns, you can use these mixtures to fill sandwiches made with Ezekiel bread.

Thai curry

Thai cuisine uses many vegetables and meat for fiber and protein, the much-needed nutrients for your teens. Because Thai curries often use coconut milk as an ingredient, it is a tasty and low-spice food that everyone can enjoy. The creaminess of coconut fills the appetite and is an excellent non-dairy alternative.

How to make Thai curries?

The following detailed recipes will give you all the information you need:

  • Thai Veg Green Curry: The green curry of Thai cuisine is filled with aromatic herbs and provides a delicious mix of sweetness and spice from green chillies with a hint of tanginess.
  • Thai Red Curry with Tofu and Mixed Vegetables: Thai red curry uses red chillies for heat and has a sour taste due to the rich mix of tomatoes and all the vegetables. The Tofu provides the required quantity of protein, making the dish healthier, in addition to its drool-worthy taste.
  • Thai Shrimp Curry: Shrimps are seafood meat low in calorific value and are packed with protein and various other micronutrients.

Serve Thai curries with rice for a complete meal. It can also be eaten separately. The fiber in the vegetables makes the dish very filling to eat, and teenagers will not feel hungry for a long time after mealtime.

Some Indian cuisines

You might need an additional pan or two for making Indian cuisine. But we promise you; they are super easy and healthy to prepare.

Ragi Dosa

Dosas are just like pancakes; easy to make but are much healthier. Ragi millet is a food rich in iron, calcium, and fiber. It is ideal to consume when you need to lose weight. The iron in ragi helps boost haemoglobin levels in the blood and so is a very good choice of food for young girls who menstruate.

How to make ragi dosa/ adai?

For tasty recipes, check out the following:

  • Ragi Dosa: No one in the world can not love dosa. Making dosa with ragi millet will make your teens gobble it up twice as fast.
  • Ragi Paniyaram: Paniyaram uses the best of idly and dosa. It has a soft idly-like texture in the middle and a crispy dosa-like coating outside.
  • Ragi Adai: Adai is much like dosa, except it contains added onions for flavour and curry leaves, making it a more filling and healthy breakfast or dinner. You can also add drumstick leaves, rich in iron, vitamins and other micronutrients to the mix.


Sprouts of green gram and chickpeas are rich in several nutrients, protein, and fiber. It is a low-calorie food that has so many health benefits for consumers. Ideally, sprouts should be eaten plain or with slight garnishings. But you can also make a host of other dishes using sprouts.

How to make sprout dishes?

  • Mixed Sprouts Sandwich: Sandwiches are the easiest snack to prepare. Make them healthier by adding sprouts, and you now have a fulfilling mini-meal that teens would love and carry on the go.
  • Sprouts Kurma: Who doesn’t love chapati or naan with the side of a tasty and spicy kurma? Now you can pack the kurma with proteins by adding different kinds of sprouts. Add coconut or cashew paste for a creamier consistency to make it finger-licking good.
  • Sprouts Dhokla: Avoid frying or cooking in oil and make this healthy steam-cooked breakfast or snack dish. This delicious recipe will be a shocker compared to the usual items, but with a healthy twist.

Fish curry

Fish is an excellent protein, iodine, vitamins, and minerals source. It is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, essential for brain development. Fish curries are a fine south Indian delicacy. It is a bit more time-consuming to prepare but is very high in nutrients and tasty.

How to make different fish curries?

They are made differently in each state, and every single recipe has a taste of its own. Check out the following:

  • Andhra Fish Curry: Andhra curries are known for their spicy and meaty flavour. This curry should be your go-to dish if your teenager loves to indulge in flavours.
  • Malabar Fish Curry: Typical of kerala food items, this curry also uses coconut for that added taste. You can also add raw mangoes to this curry to produce a sour and spicy mix.
  • Chettinad Fish Curry: With its background in Tamil Nadu, it is no wonder this curry is lip-smacking good with idly and dosa. The trademark of this dish is the tangy flavour from the tamarind extract.

The best way to eat healthy

While all of the above require some effort, these foods are wholesome and can satisfy teenagers’ hunger pangs like no other. But you might not always feel like preparing these dishes. In those days, make sure they get a mixture of different kinds of food. For a basic healthy diet, always pair protein-rich foods with easy-to-prepare carbs.

Final Thoughts

Healthy food forms the basis of any individual’s overall well-being, and teenagers are no different. If your child has an unhealthy eating routine, start by making small changes. Opt for kale chips instead of potato chips, air fried to deep-fried food, etc.

Talk to them about how nutrition is essential for their health and how being healthy will help them in many aspects of life. Teenagers may not seem like interested, but your actions and words do make a significant impact on them. Including them in buying groceries, food preparation, and choosing what to make can go a long way in developing a healthy association with food.

We hope our recipes bring a great bonding with your teenagers. Do try and let us know!

For the recipes, can you not give the actual recipes here but instead link out to the recipes on the site please?

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