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The Importance of Nutrition in Teenagers

by Kristine Tucker, studioD

Teenagers don't always realize how important nutrition is to a healthy lifestyle. They often crave pre-packaged junk food or cook pre-processed foods in the microwave because they are in a hurry and want food fast. A nutritious diet is vital to a teenager's physical, emotional and mental development. Healthy teenage eating habits lead to mature eating habits as adults.

Sufficient Calories for Growth

Teens need sufficient calories for growth and development. Teenage bodies demand more calories during early adolescence than at any other time during their life. On average, young teen boys require about 2,800 calories per day, and girls require 2,200 calories per day, according to HealthyChildren.org. The large amount of calories and ongoing hunger pangs typically subside once a teenager has stopped growing, which is usually sooner for girls than boys. Even though calories in general are important, calories from healthy sources, such as proteins, fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates and low-fat unprocessed food sources are best.

Dietary Needs

Most teenagers have a growth spurt during their teen years. Some might even have several growth spurts. Due to these rapid changes in height and weight, teenagers need more nutrients. Nutritious meals containing fruits, vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates can help teenagers have more energy, healthier physical appearances, increased learning abilities and greater athletic skills. Without proper nutritious diets, teens might feel weaker and have lower immune systems, making them more susceptible to contagious diseases.


Teenagers who don't lead healthy lifestyles with proper eating and exercise habits often struggle with weight issues, including obesity. Approximately 17 percent or 12.5 million children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 years are obese, according to 2008 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Some health issues related to teen obesity include heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and some forms of cancer, according to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Obesity is a serious issue that can affect life expectancy, lead to anxiety or depression and result in socialization problems for teens.

Minerals and Vitamins

Teenagers need daily amounts of minerals and vitamins and don't always meet those quotas when they eat unhealthy meals. Teenagers tend to fall short of their daily quotas of calcium, iron and zinc, according to HealthyChildren.org. Teenagers can take multivitamins to get the required dose of minerals and vitamins, but getting the nutrients from natural food sources is usually best. Natural ingredients in vegetables, fruits and natural grains can help teens' digestive tracks and safeguard them from disease. Talk to a pediatrician if you are concerned that your teen might not be getting the required amount of minerals and vitamins from food sources.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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