Daily Nutritional Requirements for Teens
Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and psychological development that generally occurs from puberty to adulthood. These teenage years (between 13 - 19 years old) are characterized by a profound growth rate and an increased demand for energy, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
Low intake of calcium, iron and vitamins A and C can cause micronutrient deficiencies in teens. Anorexia, bulimia, and obesity are the most common eating disorders in teens related to excessive or insufficient food intake.
As per ICMR 2020, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adolescent boys and girls are classified according to age as (13 - 15 years) and (16 - 19 years).
- Boys require an average of 2800-3320 calories per day.
- Girls require an average of 2400-2500 calories per day.
A balanced diet containing the right amount of nutrients can meet your teen's nutritional requirements. The healthy plate includes food sources such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, milk and its products, pulses and legumes, eggs, fish, nuts/oilseeds, and lean meats to provide the macros (carbs, proteins and fat) and micros (vitamins and minerals) with sufficient hydration and fibre intake.
The recommended daily protein intake for teens is 43 - 46g for girls and 45 - 55g for boys per day.
Teenagers undergo rapid changes in their growth and development, and protein is necessary for these functions. However, for protein to be effective, they must consume enough calories to meet their daily energy requirements. If calories are too low, the body uses protein for energy.
Veg Sources: Sprouts, soybeans, nuts, oilseeds, pulses and legumes, milk and milk products.
Non-veg Sources: Fish, chicken, eggs and lean meats.
The desirable visible fat intake for adolescents is 35 – 50g/day.
Dietary fats provide energy and promote healthy brain and nerve development which is important during the teenage years. Also helps in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K.
Therefore, the choice of fats needs to be healthy – unsaturated fats (MUFA and PUFA), omega- 3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Teenagers are known for eating junk food and drinking carbonated beverages rather than consuming nutrient-dense foods. Restrict unhealthy fats such as saturated and trans fats.
Sources: Nuts, oilseeds, avocados, fish, milk and milk products, olive oil, groundnut oil.
Vitamins and Minerals:
As per the RDA guidelines 2020, the iron needs for boys and girls range from 22-32mg/day. Currently, many teens consume monotonous and unbalanced diets which may limit mineral intake and bioavailability of the nutrients. Thus, leading to iron deficiency and anaemia.
Iron from meat sources (known as haem iron) in the liver and red meat, is more readily absorbed compared with iron found in vegetarian sources (known as non-haem iron), such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans and dried fruits.
Vitamin C helps the body to absorb non-haem iron. Therefore, intake of vitamin C-rich foods (lemon, oranges, amla) at mealtimes can help the absorption of iron from vegetarian sources.
Veg Sources: Green leafy vegetables (spinach, methi), pumpkin seeds, dates, rice flakes, horse gram, figs and raisins.
Non-veg Sources: Meat, poultry, and seafood.
The calcium requirement for teens ranges from 1000mg/day. Teens need enough calcium in this phase to build strong bones and fight bone loss later in life.
- To strengthen the bones
- To prevent demineralisation of bones
Teenagers whose diets are deficient in calcium are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis, which increases the risk of fractures from weakened bones. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption. Exposure to sunlight, mushrooms, and egg yolk help to obtain this vitamin.
Sources: Milk, curd, cheese, milk products, yoghurt (dairy foods), almond & soy milk, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale) and figs.
Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism that ultimately influence growth and maturation. Therefore, the RDA for zinc is highest for teens ranging from 13 – 17 mg/day. The requirement for boys is higher when compared to girls.
- Necessary for growth and maturation in girls, as deficiency results in growth retardation
- To increase bone density and promote bone mineralisation during puberty
Sources: Include whole grain cereals, milk products, fortified breakfast cereals, poultry, red meat, chickpeas, cashews and almonds.
This vitamin strengthens the uterus during a girl's puberty years which makes it an essential nutrient. Therefore, the RDA for Vitamin A varies from 790-890mg/day for the girls.
- For healthy skin and optimum growth
- It also helps vision and tissue repair
Sources: Tomatoes, green vegetables, carrots, papaya, oranges and milk.
Nutri – Nibbles: -
- Regular physical activity must be included, along with healthy meal plans.
- Calorie and protein-rich foods should be taken to support the growth spurt.
- Practice including all food groups by providing scheduled meal times with social interaction and family dining.
- Involve teens in the selection and preparation of foods and teach them to make healthy choices.
- Teens in general reported (FSSAI) dietary intakes of the following nutrients - calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fibre as deficient. Plan the meals with food sources rich in these micronutrients.
- Parents must teach their children to restrict electronic gadgets, television watching, and computer use, to less than 2 hours daily and replace sedentary activities.
- Minimise the availability of junk/processed/unhealthy foods and replace them with fruits, roasted nuts, sandwiches (veggies/ sprouts/ paneer) and sufficient hydration (water, tender coconut water, buttermilk).
- Restrict empty calorie foods such as carbonated beverages.
- Eating whole, nutrient-dense foods from each food group is the key to a healthy diet. It includes lean proteins, low-fat dairy, fruit, and whole grains.
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