our everyday life

Triggering Growth in Teens

by Eliza Martinez, studioD

During the teen years, hormones kick in and help produce growth, physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually. Teens develop at their own rate and your teen's friends might grow before he does. Nutrition also plays a role in your teen's growth, and a healthy diet aids in optimal height and weight gains. If your teen is behind his peers, change his meal plan to help boost his growth.


Calories provide the fuel your teen needs to grow and the energy he needs to get through the day. If he is not getting enough basic calories from his meals and snacks, he might not grow as much as he needs to. Teen girls need between 2,000 and 2,400 calories each day, and teen boys need about 2,300 to 3,000 calories per day. Teens should get their calories from quality foods so that they get enough other nutrients, which help them grow and develop. Talk to you teen's pediatrician to determine an appropriate number of calories for his age, size and level of physical activity.

Food Groups

Eating foods from each food group will take care of your teen's nutrient needs for optimal growth. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy foods, which contain carbohydrates, protein, fiber, calcium, vitamins A, C, D, E and K, as well as B vitamins and several micronutrients , which ensure good overall health. Female teens need 1-1/2 to 2 cups of fruit, 2 to 2-1/2 cups of vegetables, 3 ounces of grains, 5 to 5-/12 ounces of protein and 3 cups of dairy each day. Male teens should eat 1-1/2 to 2 cups of fruit, 2-1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables, 3 to 4 ounces of grains, 5 to 6-1/2 ounces of protein and 3 cups of dairy per day.


You have probably heard conflicting information about whether or not snacking is a healthy habit. For growing teens, a couple of snacks during the day can help provide enough calories for growth, particularly if the teens don't eat much at meals or if they tend to skip meals, because of schoolwork, a part-time job or extracurricular activities. Choose healthy snacks with quality calories for the greatest benefits for growing. Kids Health suggests peanut butter and raisins on celery sticks, frozen juice pops made from 100 percent juice, whole grain pita bread with hummus, trail mix made with whole-grain cereal, dried fruit and nuts. Yogurt, string cheese, fruits, vegetables, and a turkey and cheese sandwich are other yummy snack choices that a teen can eat quickly.

Meal-Time Tricks

Some teens might not have a huge appetite, and so they might not come close to meeting their daily caloric needs, which could slow their growth. To counteract this, make some easy foods to ramp up your teen's intake. The University of California, San Francisco Medical Center suggests eating salmon twice a week; add nuts to bread and muffin mix, toss olives into a salad or on pizza and serve fruit smoothies at meals instead of milk. You can also toss pasta with olive oil, sprinkle shredded cheese onto steamed vegetables, or onto baked potatoes, eggs, or add chopped nuts to cold cereal or oatmeal.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

Photo Credits

  • Ezra Shaw/Digital Vision/Getty Images